Now that I have learned about Marxism, a philosophy that places the workers – the proletariat – as the most important part of any economy, and not the company owners and their managers – the bourgeoisie – I am inspired to bond with everyday people.
My experience in a union as a doctor has been quite an eye-opening experience. The comaraderie that we working doctors have developed to address managerial intrusions into our medical practice has also inspired me to urge all workers to unionize.
The other day, picking up some take-out food, I even urged a sweet Olive Garden employee to trade numbers with her co-workers in other Olive Gardens to unionize, to be a strong voice to handle work stress, abusive managers, schedule changes, benefits, and pay raises, etc.
I could see the lightbulb in this young woman's head as she contemplated organizing. I felt good encouraging a complete stranger to strategize with her co-workers to problem-solve.
Some say unions are corrupt. Yes, some maybe have corporate-captured leadership, but the potential for life-changing solidarity is worth joining a union. Who knows? Maybe your charisma, your voice is just what your union may need to push for better work conditions.
These words: comaraderie, solidarity are the crux of what we need in the world–unity! After seeing the success of Amazon and Starbucks unionizations, I have come to realize that our real problem, our real enemy, is not one another, but the corporations and the politicians they buy.
Marxism has taught me that a worker's labor should not be taken for granted and that there is strength in numbers. Unity is the opposite of individualism. Unity requires a connection between people to create a collective. This unity excites me because it's the only thing that can defeat the total world domination that a handful of corporations have today.
Corporations, businesses like those in Big Oil, Big Technology, Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Beef, Big Weapons Manufacturers, etc are literally ruining all life on Earth, via environmental pollution, political bribery, resource and wage theft. I'm convinced we workers do not need CEOs and administrators to tell us how to do jobs that we are very capable of optimizing ourselves.
This Marxist understanding has given me a new love for America. We, the 99%, who aren't billionaires and hundred millionaires, have much more in common with each other - regardless of our political and social identities, than with the 1% that is price-gouging all goods, products, property, real estate for an immoral profit.
Why is Marxism or some anti-corporate ideology so important to spread all over America? Because American capitalism “looks good on paper” but is actually the destruction of all local economies due to monopoly or oligopoly (rule by few). Aren't Amazon, Walmart, and Target literally destroying all local competition in your town? Doesn't McDonald's, Burger King and other gigantic corporations, have the best real estate to run their restaurants (many times, multiple restaurants in the same town) pushing out the mom-and-pop diners struggling to make a living? Have you seen the corporate domination of farmlands in Southern California, where average families have little chance of owning any farming land to make their own organic food? Did you know Bill Gates owns more farmland than anyone else in America, to make his patent-ready GMO food? Why did Apple disadvantage apps on its App store, and favor Apple apps, if capitalism is supposed to be some fantasy-world place of free market competition?
Marxism, the unity of workers to demand better wages, work conditions, and time off (vacations, weekends, better shifts, pensions), shouldn't be a dirty word in America. But unfortunately it is. Can we agree that sending troops to Vietnam, to “stop Marxism/Communism”, was immoral and completely backfired resulting in thousands of suicidal veterans forgotten by the capitalist leaders who sent them to kill kids and spray poison on basic food, like rice?
Even when I'm discussing or disagreeing with people on line, no matter how much we may disagree, I always keep in my mind that this person is not the enemy, and the real threat is the greedy corporate system that requires poverty to lure desperate workers back to jobs with immorally low wages, while billionaires get richer and richer, even through worldwide pandemics.
Marxism has even helped me to not blame a low level worker for poor service at a restaurant or store, but instead to blame the upper management for understaffing the kitchen/floor, underpaying the workers, and passing on the abuse from top management down to the workers who do all of the grunt work for a business.
I hope that you read up more on Marxism and learn to use it as a tool for American unity like I have done.
This article was produced by Udit's Substack.
The police and mental health are often contradictory topics, usually one exacerbating the other, leading to tragic headlines. Discussions on either topic tend to be a given and take of the other. However, it cannot be denied that the police themselves are going through the same: Not only do they have their own have mental health to be concerned about, but they are in the midst the very same mental health crisis as the rest of us – the very same crisis they are known to react to with force and firearms.
The question is: Are these crises experienced equally?
If we are to consider that one is likely to be detained and jailed or hospitalized, if not killed, while the other has a union and political backing to ensure whatever they do will not come to any real consequence, the answer seems like an obvious no.
So, how are we to read “cops” and “mental health” together?
This past April, US Capitol Officer Harry Dunn, who was on site and attempted to fend off attackers during the January 6th insurrection, spoke at the American Association of Suicidology’s 56th annual conference AAS23. He spoke about his struggles with PTSD and being at the Capitol that day; he spoke about suicide and how difficult it is for cops to breach the topic of mental health.
Mental health is said to be stigmatized, this being the main obstacle to getting care for everyone who is in need of help. Dunn claimed that this is the reality of police as well: That they don’t know how to speak up and ask for help. Yet millions of individuals do the same every day. What is keeping a professional – who already has absolute discretion on their side – from asking for help? Are police departments not staffed with psychologists as well? Perhaps it is not so simple.
Speaking to a packed room populated mostly with those in the mental healthcare industry in some way or another, there was not a thing Dunn could say that would not hit.
“Who do the police go to when we need the police?” asked Dunn.
”We need to be more proficient in mental health…as proficient as we are with our firearms,” stated Dunn.
“We have all these [mental health] services and no one is taking advantage of them,” said Dunn. “You only get out of [mental health] what you put into it.”
How was it that all these mental health professionals were fine celebrating the very problems mental health has supposedly been trying to tackle for decades? During the question and answer session, people were eager to acknowledge his bravery that day he spoke at the conference equal only to that fateful day in January 2021.
The police side of things felt the same – i.e. proudly pronouncing the proficiency of firearm use. However, something felt amiss in the mental health with which Dunn spoke.
Although this was a very particular situation for a police officer to find themselves in, and Officer Dunn has certainly been through a lot, there is a major concern when police start speaking in mental health terms.
For example, when Dunn asks “who do the police go to?” he misses the obvious answer: The police go to the police all the time for help, usually in the form of protection or to cover something up. Known as the “blue wall of silence” or “blue code,” there exists a long record of cops testifying to protect other officers, staying silent over crimes, and planting evidence. Many state apparatuses, such as judges, already favor police, usually minimizing sentences or allowing them to keep their firearms even after a domestic assault.
The Supreme Court, in its ever-dwindling popularity, has even been known to protect police officers.
Dunn – whether, consciously or not – seems to be asking the question ironically: Mental health crises are still very much a matter of the police and that is the problem of today. On top of this, Dunn misses the much larger problem of these mental health services that allegedly no one is taking advantage of: It is not that they are simply available and stigma has prevented people from using them, but rather that mental health care is expensive, often prohibitively so, and many people lack the time and money to engage with it. We also are facing a major shortage in mental healthcare workers, not to mention that such care varies in quality drastically. Stigma is a symptom that stems from how unavailable mental care is to the majority of people.
Dunn’s words on mental health are the same arguments we have been hearing for a couple of decades now regarding mental illness, suicide, and personal crises. Police can easily use the very same “destigmatize mental health” slogans – which have done little more than to further repress talk and working-through of actual mental illnesses, suicide, eating disorders, addictions, domestic and sexual violence, etc. – because it makes them seem human, fallible, prone to accidents.
The problem with mental health today is that it fully represses the underside of mental illness in favor of notions like self-care and wellness, and further subtracts the inherent violence of mental health issues in their entirety. To say that there is such a thing as a “non-violent” mental health crisis obfuscates much of the violence that exists leading to and during that very crisis.
From here it is not such a big leap to realize that both stigma and destigmatizing efforts repress the same thing. So, how do the police fit into all of this? How is it that cops can easily co-opt the same language as those that so often find themselves to be the (fatal) victim of police? How is it that the police can experience the allegedly same mental health crises despite an excess of power and still come out as the same fallible humans as us?
“Mental health” has had a meteoric rise in public discourse in the last few decades, which very quickly led to prominent ideas of self-care and a wellness industry, which rakes in $4.5 trillion a year. Cynicism aside, mental health is an important aspect of all our lives and is, in fact, a dependency for healthy living. The problem is less the notion itself and more what that notion entails. For example, the availability – and, thus, the affordability – of mental healthcare is incredibly limited. From therapeutic costs to the prices of psychotropic drugs, treating mental health clinically is very costly, often prohibitively so.
The wellness industry, offering “more affordable alternatives,” is no better: Self-care in the wellness industry looks like – and it must look like something to keep up appearances – meditation and yoga classes, candles and incense, supplements and vitamins, light masks, and even fashion itself. Self-care is a lifestyle – one that precludes the very problem with which we began: mental illness.
The police are able to use “mental health” and destigmatizing slogans just as any company can peddle self-care products for the sake of a better “you” because they are talking about the exact same thing – or, more accurately, they are not addressing the very same thing.
The unfortunate truth with which we must reconcile with is that by repressing what really needs to be figured out – the excess of suicidal violence, the lack of affordable healthcare, police intervention, a shortage of competent mental health professionals – mental health acts as an “equalizer” giving everyone the appearance of equal footing. This can easily be seen in how one’s self-care fits the same neoliberal logic of personal success and failure – i.e. you only have yourself to blame for any mental hardships.
The “equality” found in our concept of mental health today excludes class antagonisms, power dynamics, an unequal availability to focus on one’s mental health, etc.: Everything we feel too conspiratorial to bring up.
“Mental health” is a narrative that works for corporations and cops. It would even seem logical to take it a step further and suggest that destigmatizing mental health not only doesn’t get us to a more comfortable spot with mental health concerns, but rather destills it of any significant, even subversive, content whatsoever. Whatever this destigmatized mental health is, it can clearly be used as much against us as we are led to believe it can help us. What happens when the mental health we were after has its original intent subtracted from it to now stand unequally above us? We are back to the same problematic power dynamic with which we began. When the police take another thing – whether its a life, city funds, someone’s comfort – it feels necessary to quote James Baldwin: “Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.”
Andrew Wright is an essayist and activist based out of Detroit. He has written and presented on topics such as suicide and mental health, class struggle, gender studies, politics, ideology, and philosophy.
Puerto Rico, Puerto Pobre: A dialectical history of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico By: Benjamin Perez GonzalezRead Now
“Puerto Rico, Puerto Pobre,
“They make slaughter and call it peace.”
Colonialism, according to the proclamation of the United Nations in 1960, represents one of the biggest violations of human rights and the forces of history show that colonialism is one of the greatest evils that can ever be imposed upon a people. Colonialism manifests itself through the oppression of a foreign people and the super-exploitation of the resources, minerals and wealth of their land. As Fannon once said, “For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.”
The island(s) of Puerto Rico, the world's oldest colony, remains to be misunderstood at best to the American public, and unheard at worst. Puerto Rico was first colonized by Spain in the 15th century and then invaded and occupied by the United States since 1898. Yet little is spoken about this in the U.S. mainstream media or by any NGO that proclaims the “protection of human rights” that is sponsored by the United States government. When we hear about Puerto Rico we might think about Bad Bunny,the flamboyant culture, the beautiful beaches or when hurricane Maria devastated the island(s) in 2017. The ruling class and their media apparatus never truly seriously discuss the issue of Puerto Rico, could it be because it is an issue that they want to hide and deny? Let’s take a look.
As a history teacher in the public schools of the United States I was able to experience how children are indoctrinated with deceitful chauvinism and lies about a republic founded on democracy and equality. Furthermore, students are presented with a euphemistic and romanticized version of colonialism and imperialism, often called expansionism, with mystical names as the Manifest Destiny or the Monroe Doctrine. The Founding Fathers are glamoured as freedom fighters and men of justice. However ,little is said that the United States was founded by a slavocracy, which continued a legacy of genocide, slavery, and land theft. Ironically enough, the United States was founded as a Republic against British colonialism. In fact, The Declaration of Independence advocates for the total liberation and self determination for the people of the Union. The iconic text follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and there is nothing more destructive that can be done against a people than colonialism! However, when reading the textbooks taught in the public schools of the United States, little is said about imperialism, colonialism and the ugly truths of capitalism. The imperialist ruling class does not only dominate through the hegemony of violence, but also, through culture hegemony,and their domination of ideas, establishing in the process, their ideology which is rooted in the justification of capitalism and its highest stage:imperialism. Imperialism, as Claudia Jones stated, gave birth to racism, and also, to the most atrocious forms of bigotry and hateful ideology. The ideology of the ruling class is enforced upon the masses of the people through their corporate mainstream media,including their newspapers, the news, social media, music, and through the (mis)education system, in which students are presented with historical fallacies and imperialist propaganda. Conquest is justified and the enslavers are exalted.Therefore, it is natural, that colonialism and the issue of Puerto Rico is completely ignored in US textbooks, and for that matter, in almost every other aspect of society. Students, and the American public, are told that the United States does not have colonies but rather “territories'' and perhaps the greatest lie of them all: that the United States interest throughout the world (including their invasions, coups, sanctions, and occupations) are to spread democracy and to further the “will of the people” that they invaded and sacked. The imperialist ruling class, throughout history, have always used euphemisms and lies to justify their plunder. The Roman Empire called their bloody rule over the ancient world “Pax Romana”, and more recently, the British Empire referred to themselves as “Pax Britannica” during their international reign of colonialism and slavery.Regardless, of the denial of the imperialist ruling class, the entire world can see their words as for what they are: imperialist lies. The United States is the biggest, most powerful empire in the history of humankind. Empires seek to super exploit the land of foreign nations, in the process plundering and subjugating entire peoples. Capitalism undergoes a dialectical transformation which evolves into its highest stage,that being, as we already know, imperialism; a process that we must clarify as not peaceful or just, but as the entire opposite, as ruthlessness established as law and tyranny as supreme. Colonialism is what empires do, establishing a state of warfare and oppression between the colonizer and the colonized. Colonialism can be defined as the act of power and domination of one nation, by acquiring or maintaining full or partial political control over another sovereign nation. According to the United Nations, in their Declaration of 1960, regarding the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries stated: “The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights”.
The struggle against imperialism and for the independence of Puerto Rico is not a new development. The Tainos, the indigenous people of the Caribbean, were in the front lines, as the first warriors against imperialism with the arrival of Columbus in the New World in 1492. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Tainos had a society which was characterized by their communal land ownership, matriarchal hierarchies, and elaborate knowledge of agriculture. In fact, in the Taino language there wasn’t a definition or words for the term private property. However, with their superior art of killling and metal weaponry (along with the practice of genocide) the Europeans were able to impose a system based on private property and slavery. As colonialism was installed, the Tainos were annihilated, and new figures of struggle arose.However, none were more popular than the figure of Ramon Emeterio Betances, the “Doctor of the poor and enslaved” as he was called. Betances was a revolutionary, abolitionist medical doctor, who elevated the call for the liberation of Puerto Rico and the abolition of the slavery. His figure, and the struggle of independence can best be captured during the Grito de Lares in 1862, a popular rebellion, coordinated with Cuba, for the liberation of both islands, along with the abolition of the slave system. Since then many figures, movements, prophets, and uprisings have risen and fallen, but in the end the call is the same: the total liberation of Puerto Rico and the end of U.S. colonialism.
The history for the independence of Puerto Rico represents a struggle for justice, dignity and essential human rights; and at the same time, against imperialism and colonialism. It is for this exact reason, I would argue, that the U.S. mainstream media and the imperialist ruling class completely ignores the issue of Puerto Rico, because if they didn’t, they would be forced to recognize, in front of the American people and the eyes of the entire world, the violation of basic human rights and the atrocities which the U.S. government have perpetuated against the people of Puerto Rico.
Benjamin Perez Gonzalez graduated in Sociology and Political Science from Florida International University and is current a graduate student at the University of Puerto Rico. They are also a teacher, writer and activist.
The Re-education of an Idealist Apostate(or, what I was getting wrong about Marx) By: Ross Ion CoyleRead Now
I had done a course in Marxism in college years ago (actually, it was called 'Marxism and Existentialism', done by a very new-left lecturer, so you can imagine the bad taste it left in my mouth). We studied the German idealists in a separate course, although Marx should have been the culmination of that module. Instead they lumped Marx in with existentialism, which didn’t appeal to me.
Perhaps that was intentional. Our philosophy department was headed by a Thomist who was a founding member of a far right ‘Christian’ party here in Ireland until he realised that no-one was buying his bs upon which realisation, he moved to America where he joined the faculty of a Von Mises university. He would, wouldn't he. I think the logic there is that if you can't control society as a fascist, you become a libertarian to argue that society should not control you; frustrated power-bid and consequent paranoia.
Our token leftist as I say was a real Frankfurt school enthusiast who I really didn’t get on with. All this to say that my Marxist education prior to doing the online Midwestern Marx course was more a question of miseducation.
The biggest flaw (apart from an unhelpful penchant for eclecticism) in my understanding was- and this is a point that was driven home to me especially in reading Stalin – my entrenched idealism. I falsely assumed, even if only unconsciously, that an ideology had to begin with getting the abstracts right. Getting a kind of static geometrical representation in my head of what was going on in the ideology. And of course, that is anathema to proper Marxism as I have now learned.
Furthermore, I hadn’t understood the implications of the phrase “from the abstract to the concrete” in either Hegel or Marx, which is a very big failing. I had, given my prior philosophical tastes and absorptions, assumed it was some kind of mystical formula – something akin to the Buddhist idea of the world being a manifestation of the storehouse consciousness (alaya vijnana). I understand now that it is, like that Buddhist concept, both an epistemological and ontological characterisation, but unlike the Buddhist one, it takes place historically and makes up the proper Marxist worldview. This is the worldview through which we can get a hold on what is unfolding in history and society and what needs to be done, and importantly, what we need to do if we’re to advance the struggle.
It is in the material conditions of the society that the prime determining factors of the human situation are located, not in some noetic abstract inner realm. The great mesh of causes and conditions, and most importantly the character of the way the society produces the necessities+, is the shaping basis for all in human experience. The life pattern of that base is the dialectic of historical materialism.
Those dynamic processes, innate and directing of the flow of nature are immanent in us and pattern our human mental faculties which serve as the inventory for both our experience of the world (and ourselves) and our ways of engaging in our activity within the world. The way nature or the universe is is reflected in the organisation of our minds which have arisen from and in nature. If nature changes according to the dialectical principle, then so too should the best philosophy be one which recognises this dynamic flux where all things are intimately related and change through mutual interactions. In fact, the reality that is the cosmos is both other than a vast and dynamic web of interdependency and all things, each and every thing, arises from the web of causes and conditions, having no independent substance which would make it independent of all else. Marxism recognises this fundamental characteristic of the world as a dynamic totality of dependent origination and mutual development of things, including humans.
From the Purity Fetish, as proposed by Carlos Garrido, I learned that Purity fetishism is a particular vice in western thought which, when manifest in socialist discourse and attitude, appears as an intense literalism and intolerance, often combined with heavy emphases on radical and contrarian posturing both reactionary and liberal.
These purisms are especially directed towards existing socialist states such as Cuba and China, in line with Washington imperialist policy, but also causing vicious fracturing and impotence within any nascent leftist resurgence. And here, though my absence from being on twitter has saved me from a lot of it, nevertheless I see instances of exactly what Carlos has identified as the purity fetish all the time on other social media platforms; radical posturing and sloganeering, mostly directed at already existing socialist states and mostly from those whose radical (at least in rhetoric) stances can only render them as appearing bizarre if not ridiculous to ordinary people.
This can be seen to be occurring also in the ‘mirror of wokeness’ left, a largely stylistic and aesthetic variant of the more traditional, academic radical-recuperater safety-valve that the ruling class can rely on to misdirect energy and potential. This new form manifests as the plastic contrarianism and enthusiastic embrace of culture-war issues from a purportedly conservative side, doing little more than aping the worst excesses of the tabloid media’s decades long assault on working class consciousness and ending up, just as the ultra purist left, supporting the maintenance of the system and edifying the ruling class.
This article was produced by World in the Great Darkness.
In this way, the United States inaugurated a tradition that would characterize its behavior in the international arena to this day, in which the words of its political leaders not only conceal their true intentions, but in many cases the intentions have been the total reverse of the words. It was not for nothing that the Liberator, Simón Bolívar, left posterity a phrase that is still valid today, when he pointed out in 1829 that the United States seemed destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of freedom.[i] The Monroe Doctrine served as the basis of the United States’ political and economic policy.
The Monroe Doctrine served Washington to declare unilaterally and as if it were a divine right, protector of the American continent, letting the rest of the world know where its zone of influence, expansion and predominance resided.
However, during the first three years following its enunciation, the countries of the region invoked it on no less than five occasions in order to confront real or apparent threats to their independence and territorial integrity, only to receive negative or evasive responses from the U.S. government. The passage of time confirmed that the Monroe Doctrine had been created only to be defined, interpreted and applied at the convenience of the United States.
Over time it would have numerous updates and corollaries from different U.S. governments, always seeking to close any gap that could, from the interpretation and practice of other international actors and the countries of the region themselves, jeopardize its true designs. To mention just a few of them, the Polk Corollary[ii] of 1848: not only would the United States not admit new European colonizations on the American continent, but also that no nation in the region would freely request the intervention of European governments in its affairs or its own union with any of them; it also stated that no European nation could interfere in the will or desires of countries of the continent to join the United States; the Hayes Corollary[iii] of 1880: fixed the Caribbean and Central America as part of the exclusive sphere of influence of the United States and that to avoid interference by European imperialism in America, Washington should exercise exclusive control of any inter-oceanic canal to be built; Roosevelt Corollary[iv] of 1904 -much better known-: proclaims the duty and right of the United States to intervene as international arbiter or policeman in Latin American and Caribbean countries in the face of conflicts or debts with extra-regional powers; and the Kennan Corollary[v] of 1950: justified U.S. support for the dictatorships that flourished in the region under the pretext of anti-communism, which would even be called “national security dictatorships”.
None of the U.S. leaders ever entertained the idea that Monroe’s declaration could constitute an act of altruism or of particular friendship towards the neighboring republics to the south -as many Latin American governments fervently believed for years- let alone that it implied for the United States the obligation to intervene in defense of any country in the continent that was the victim of external aggression. For U.S. statesmen, the Monroe Doctrine was limited to announcing the eventual intervention of the United States only in those cases and in those areas of the region that were of vital interest for its domination.
This is what the Secretary of War of the Monroe administration, John C. Calhoun, stated: “We must not be subjected to having our general declarations quoted to us on every occasion, to which we can give all the interpretations we want. There are cases of intervention where I would appeal to the vagaries of war with all its calamities. Am I asked for one? I will answer. I designate the case of Cuba. As long as Cuba remains in the power of Spain, a friendly power, a power which we do not fear, the policy of the government will be, as has been the policy of all governments since I have intervened in politics, to leave Cuba as it is, but with the express design, which I hope never to see realized, that if Cuba leaves the dominion of Spain, it shall not pass into other hands but ours…In the same category I will mention another case, that of Texas; if it had been necessary, we would have resisted a foreign power.”[vi]
Between 1825 and 1826 it was corroborated that the Monroe Doctrine had nothing to do with “peace and security”, and much less with a sincere and disinterested support to the independence of their “brothers of the South”, when the United States opposed by diplomatic means and in a threatening tone, before a possible joint Colombian-Mexican expedition, with the objective of bringing independence to Cuba and Puerto Rico, a project that Simón Bolívar and Guadalupe Victoria, the latter president of Mexico, had cherished. In the face of strong U.S. diplomatic pressure, the governments of Bogota and Mexico responded that no operation of great magnitude against the Spanish Antilles would be accelerated until the proposal was submitted to the judgment of the Amphictyonic Congress of Panama to be held in 1826.
Washington’s concern, as is logical, continued, transferring its concern to the governments of Colombia and Mexico and moving all the levers of its diplomatic power. [vii] Years later, José Martí would refer to this embarrassing passage in the history of the United States, a reflection of the Monroist ideology, in one of his famous speeches when he said: “And Bolívar was already putting his foot in the stirrup, when a man who spoke English, and who came from the North with government papers, grabbed his horse by the bridle and spoke to him as follows: “I am free, you are free, but that people who are to be mine, because I want them for myself, cannot be free!”[viii] The status quo convenient to the interests of the United States could not be altered by extra-continental powers, but not even by the countries of the region themselves. This situation would be maintained during the years 1827, 1828 and 1829, every time an attempt was made to revive the redemptive enterprise; both by Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
It is very illustrative in today’s light, when we continue to see the Yankee obsession with Cuba, that in the context of the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, the interests of U.S. domination over the Greater Antilles were especially gravitating. The Monroe Doctrine was also complemented by the so-called theory of the Ripe Fruit, formulated by John Quincy Adams in 1823, in which Cuba was compared to a fruit on a tree, to metaphorically point out that just as there were laws of physical gravitation, there were also laws of political gravitation and, for such reasons, there was no other destiny for Cuba than to fall into American hands, it was only necessary to wait for the opportune moment for the fruit to be ripe for that inevitable end to be fulfilled.
During this process – Adams also pointed out in a letter sent on April 28, 1823 to the diplomatic representative of the United States in Madrid – it was preferable that the desired fruit remained in the hands of Spain before it passed into the hands of the more powerful powers of the time. Hence, when the British Foreign Minister, George Canning, proposed to Washington the signing of a joint declaration rejecting any attempt by the Holy Alliance and France to restore Spain’s absolutism in the Spanish-American territories, the United States took the lead in a masterstroke, making a declaration of its own -later known as the Monroe Doctrine- that left the United States’ hands absolutely free in America and tried to tie them to the rest of the powers, including England. At the root of the emergence of the Monroe Doctrine was Cuba, as one of the territories most coveted by the U.S. political class. Also Mexico, more than half of whose territories would later be usurped during the war of 1846-1848.
In 1830, Simón Bolívar, who during his struggle for independence and the unity of the peoples of Spanish America had felt the rejection of the United States as a great obstacle and permanent danger, as well as his calculating and cold stance -which he called arithmetical behavior- in relation to the emancipation process that was taking place in South America, was leaving for eternity. Against the Liberator and his plans for the unity and integration of Spanish America, a wide conspiratorial network was woven from Washington, which is still astonishing today for its level of articulation, when the means of communication and intelligence available to U.S. imperialism today did not yet exist. However, U.S. diplomatic representatives such as William Tudor, William Harrison, Joel Poinsett, among others, did a very effective dirty work to defeat more than the person of Bolivar, the ideas he represented and defended, totally antagonistic to the Monroist philosophy. His pioneering thought of anti-imperialism, about the unity and integration of the territories freed from the yoke of Spanish colonialism, in favor of the abolition of slavery, of the most dispossessed classes and the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico, were the greatest threat to their interests of expansion and domination that Washington faced in those years, hence their innumerable attempts to discredit him by calling him “usurper”, “dictator”, “the madman of Colombia”, among other offensive adjectives.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Bolivarian ideal would have in José Martí, the Apostle of Cuban independence, one of its most brilliant disciples, who could see like no one else into the entrails of the monster and warn of its dangers for the independence of Our America and the very balance of the world. It was then up to him to confront Monroeism at the stage when the United States was taking its first steps of transition to the imperialist phase and when the Monroe doctrine was being modernized through Pan-Americanism, which advocated continental unity under the dominant axis of Washington from the narrative of the so-called Manifest Destiny, a thesis of supposed biblical roots, which affirmed that the divine will granted the American nation the right to control the entire continent. The United States sought hemispheric supremacy in international legal forums and instruments and with it the institutionalization of the postulates of the Monroe Doctrine.
Through his chronicles and articles in more than twenty Spanish-American newspapers, José Martí developed an intense anti-imperialist work to defeat the thesis of a single currency, arbitration and customs union, promoted by the U.S. Secretary of State, James Blaine, at the American International Conference held in Washington between 1889 and 1890. He would also do so at the Monetary Conference of the Republics of America in 1891, where he actively participated as Consul of Uruguay.
There has never been in America, from independence to the present time,” warned Martí, “a matter that requires more wisdom, nor obliges more vigilance, nor demands clearer and more meticulous examination, than the invitation that the powerful United States, full of unsaleable products, and determined to extend their dominions in America, make to the less powerful American nations, linked by free and useful trade with the European peoples, to establish a league against Europe, and to close deals with the rest of the world.
From the tyranny of Spain, Spanish America knew how to save itself; and now, after seeing with judicial eyes the antecedents, causes and factors of the invitation, it is urgent to say, because it is the truth, that the hour of declaring its second independence has arrived for Spanish America.”[ix]
Shortly before falling in Dos Rios on May 19, 1895, in an unfinished letter to his Mexican friend Manuel Mercado, Martí left testimony of which had been the sense of his life: to prevent in time with the independence of Cuba, that the United States spread through the Antilles and fall with that force more on our lands of America.
With a far-sighted vision Martí had seen the great danger that the voracious imperial appetites of Washington represented for Cuba and the countries of our America and foresaw what could happen if the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico was not achieved in a short time, where he considered the balance of the world was to be found.
In the faithful of America are the Antilles,” wrote Martí in an analysis that demonstrates his knowledge and vision of the geopolitical interests that were moving on the international scene, “which would be, if slaves, a mere pontoon of the war of an imperial republic against the jealous and superior world that is already preparing to deny it power, -a mere fortress of the American Rome; and if free -and worthy of being so by the order of equitable and hard-working freedom- they would be in the continent the guarantee of balance, that of independence for the still threatened Spanish America and that of honor for the great republic of the north, which in the development of its territory, unfortunately already feudal and divided into hostile sections, will find more certain greatness than in the ignoble conquest of its smaller neighbors, and in the inhuman fight that with the possession of them would open against the powers of the world for the predominance of the world”.
And a few lines further on he expresses: “It is a world that we are balancing: it is not only two islands that we are going to liberate.”[x].
In 1898, with its intervention in the Cuban-Spanish conflict, the United States turned the island of Cuba into a test tube for neocolonialism in the region, thus initiating a historical period characterized by the consummation and success of the Monroe Doctrine, consolidating its dominance in the Western Hemisphere and gradually displacing rival powers, especially England. In addition to Cuba and Puerto Rico, Washington secured control of the Isthmus of Panama, one of the most important geostrategic points.
The Dominican Republic, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti suffered directly from the policy of the Big Stick and the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine with the intervention and territorial occupation of the Yankee Marines. In the case of Cuba, Monroeism acquired legal connotation through the Platt Amendment, an appendix to the 1901 Constitution, imposed by force on the Cubans under the threat of permanent military occupation. The Platt Amendment gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba whenever it deemed convenient and to lease territories for the establishment of naval and coal bases, the origin of the illegal U.S. presence in Guantanamo Bay to this day. The Platt Amendment was neither conceived nor imposed to safeguard Cuba or any Cuban interest, but as a tangible expression of the Monroe Doctrine.
Roosevelt’s successor in the White House, William Taft, through dollar and gunboat diplomacy, combined military intervention with U.S. financial and political control, expanding and consolidating U.S. domination in Central America and the Caribbean. “The day is not far distant,” Taft would unabashedly point out, “when three stars and three stripes at three equidistant points will delimit our territory: one at the North Pole, another at the Panama Canal and the third at the South Pole. The whole hemisphere will in fact be ours by virtue of our racial superiority, as it is already ours morally.”[xi]
This was followed by the administrations of Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, all of whom, in one way or another, reinforced the postulates of the Monroe Doctrine, intervening or threatening militarily whenever the requirements of their imperial security in the region were threatened. The Mexican Revolution suffered the onslaught of Monroeism in those years, as did Nicaragua from 1926 to 1933, when Augusto César Sandino, leading a popular army, confronted the Marines who had invaded and occupied the country. The U.S. troops were finally defeated and had to withdraw from the Central American nation on January 3, 1933. However, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration, the same one that had advocated the deception of the Good Neighbor policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean, did not stand idly by and conspired against Sandino until his assassination was carried out and the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza was established, “a son of a bitch”, as Roosevelt himself described him, “but our son of a bitch”.
The outbreak of World War II was a perfect opportunity for the U.S. government to further expand its domination throughout the hemisphere, extending its military bases in the region and getting numerous Latin American and Caribbean countries to join its “hemispheric security” projects, in reality becoming subordinate to the geostrategic objectives of U.S. imperialism. The signing in 1947 by 20 Latin American and Caribbean governments of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) was a palpable example of this. Monroe and Adams could not have been more satisfied from their graves, especially when in 1948 the Organization of American States (OAS) was created as an instrument of the United States to modernize and institutionalize its domination over Latin America and the Caribbean. Its birth was baptized with the bloodshed of the Colombian people, in the midst of a popular uprising triggered by the assassination of progressive leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. The government servile to Washington’s interests imposed after those events would be the only one to send troops to the Korean War to please the master of the North.
It immediately became evident that the purpose of the OAS had nothing to do with “continental unity and solidarity” in the face of common challenges and “extra-regional threats”, but that it was just another piece in the new world system that was emerging to satisfy the hegemonic interests of the U.S. power elite. The so-called Inter-American system was in reality part of its system of domination. The OAS was an adaptation of the Monroe Doctrine to the post-war scenario in order to align the entire region in the face of the “dangers of international communism”. Hence its uselessness -beyond the possibility of verbally condemning U.S. imperialism- to represent the interests of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples.
The history of the OAS has been none other than the most infamous support of oligarchic governments to Washington’s interests, or Washington’s disrespect for the majority, when that majority has disagreed with its positions, reflecting the fallacy of its own existence as a space for concerted action between the two Americas. The OAS Charter itself has been violated and regional consensus has been flouted by the United States on multiple occasions. Undoubtedly, it was conceived and continues to try to function as a Yankee “Ministry of Colonies”, at the root of which lies the Monroist philosophy.
At the end of World War II, the United States achieved absolute supremacy in the Western Hemisphere, reaching the pinnacle of the aspirations of the founding fathers, of Adams and Monroe when they launched the famous doctrine and of their most loyal and creative continuators. Having reached that level of control in what they considered their backyard, the power elite of U.S. imperialism felt in a position to extend its hegemony to other geographical areas of the world, even going beyond the limits of what was expressed in the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.
The 1960s brought a new revival of the Monroe ideal in the face of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the supposed penetration of communism in the Western Hemisphere, a pretext that was assumed and disseminated from Washington to follow an even more aggressive course against the Cuban revolutionary process and provoke its diplomatic isolation in the hemisphere, a fact that materialized when Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962. In that same year President Kennedy said at a press conference:
“The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant ever since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it: that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power into the Western Hemisphere, and that is why we oppose what is happening in Cuba today. That’s why we have cut off our trade relations. That’s why we work in the Organization of American States and in other ways to isolate the communist threat in Cuba.”[xii]
The resistance and achievements of the Cuban Revolution, its example of independence and absolute sovereignty at the very gates of the U.S. empire, was an inadmissible reality for the true hegemonic purposes under which the Monroe Doctrine was inspired. At the same geographical point where Washington had begun its long road of successful expansion and preeminence, making its debut as an empire, the most forceful and sustained challenge ever faced by the colossus of the North from the periphery of the South also began and, as if that were not enough, under its own nose and by an island, small in size, but a giant as a moral example for the world. Fidel Castro Ruz, would embrace the Bolivarian, Martian, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, internationalist and Marxist ideal, becoming a heresy that even today and facing the future, continues to fight and win great battles, while his example and thought lives on in the Cuban people and revolutionaries around the world.
In addition to unleashing a full-spectrum war against Cuba that continues to this day, this anomaly to U.S. domination in the Western Hemisphere led the various U.S. governments to unleash a whole series of violent and reactionary policies to prevent the existence of more Cubas in the region. A new stage of invasions, coups d’état and support for bloody dictatorships began, under the pretext of the fight against communism.
In the name of freedom – also of human rights – as Bolivar had warned in 1829, Washington was responsible for the most horrendous crimes practiced against the peoples south of the Rio Bravo. Millions of disappeared, tortured, murdered, was the cost paid by our peoples, a figure impossible to fully calculate if we add up the victims of Monroism since the 19th century. We can never forget that history, which is also part of what these two hundred years of the Monroe Doctrine have meant. How can we not refer to Operation Condor, which between 1975 and 1983 was responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances throughout the continent, where the criminal efforts of the U.S. government and the CIA joined forces with the military dictatorships of Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Bolivia, as well as terrorist groups of Cuban origin based in Miami, with the aim of curtailing the progressive and revolutionary movement in Latin America.
Fifty years ago the Nixon-Kissinger administration unleashed a great plot against the Popular Unity government presided by Salvador Allende in Chile, this operation culminated on September 11, 1973 with a coup d’état, the death of Allende and the establishment of one of the most atrocious dictatorships of the entire continent, whose aftermath is still visible in that country today. Also 40 years ago, the Republican administration of Ronald Reagan launched an invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada on October 25, 1983, where a revolutionary process led by Maurice Bishop was taking place. History as a teacher of life teaches lessons for the present. Fidel’s words to the Chilean people, in Santiago de Chile, on December 12, 1971, warning of the threat posed by the fascist right wing supported from Washington to the revolutionary processes, are especially relevant today:
“But what do the exploiters do when their own institutions no longer guarantee their domination? What is their reaction when the mechanisms they have historically counted on to maintain their domination fail them? They simply destroy them. There is no one more anti-constitutional, more anti-legal, more anti-parliamentary, more repressive, more violent and more criminal than fascism.
Fascism, in its violence, liquidates everything: it attacks the universities, closes them down and crushes them; it attacks the intellectuals, represses and persecutes them; it attacks the political parties; it attacks the trade union organizations; it attacks all the mass organizations and the cultural organizations.
So that there is nothing more violent or more retrograde or more illegal than fascism.”[xiii]
The fall of the socialist camp unleashed triumphalist airs in Washington about the arrival of the “Pax Americana”, it was no longer just “America for the Americans”, but the world at the feet of the victorious world power of the Cold War as a supposed end of history. However, in addition to the fact that they could not sweep away Cuba, which resisted and emerged victorious again as the main stone in their shoes, popular rebellions and resistances in what the United States considered its safe backyard, immediately began to happen and the least the power elite in that country could have imagined was that there would be a resurgence of the US imperialist regime, which would be the first to be able to take control of Cuba, The least the power elite in that country could have imagined was that there would be a resurgence of Bolivarianism and the arrival to power of progressive and leftist forces, which articulated a change of era where Monroism was called into question, rescuing and updating the Bolivarian ideal for the 21st century.
The role of Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, at the head of the Bolivarian Revolution, undoubtedly marked a turn and a leap in Latin American and Caribbean history. Together with the governments of Nestor Kichner in Argentina, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, Lula Da Silva in Brazil, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Fidel and Raúl in Cuba, a regional “Our American” project began to take shape, which included the creation of integration organizations such as ALBA-TCP, UNASUR, CELAC, TELESUR, PETROCARIBE, among other mechanisms that sought to break with the domination schemes that had been imposed from the North for decades. In November 2005, the attempts of US imperialism to recolonize the region under a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) were defeated, when in Mar del Plata, Argentina, during the IV Summit of the Americas, several Latin American and Caribbean presidents stood up to it, among them the very host of the meeting, President Néstor Kirchner, together with Chávez and Lula. The United States had never faced such a break in its domination of the Western Hemisphere since the end of World War II. The administrations of William Clinton, W. Bush and Barack Obama reacted with all their arsenal and allies to stop and overthrow this process: coups d’état, parliamentary coups, oil coups, economic sanctions, blockades, cultural, media, psychological and fourth generation wars, subversion, espionage, interference in internal affairs, encouragement of treason and division, prosecution of progressive and leftist leaders, diplomatic and economic threats, military maneuvers, activation of the IV Fleet, among many other actions that marked the imperial, oligarchic and right-wing counter-offensive throughout the region.
However, under the precepts of Smart Power, in 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed that the Monroe Doctrine had come to an end and in a speech before the OAS, the then Secretary of State, John Kerry, stated that the relationship between the United States and Latin America should be that of equivalent partners, and that his government sought to establish a link not based on doctrines but on common interests and values. But the best lie to these declarations came only two years later when a new coup attempt against the Bolivarian Revolution took place, where U.S. interference became evident. A few weeks later, the White House declared Venezuela an extraordinary threat to its national security.
In the case of Cuba, despite the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations on December 17, 2014 and the so-called new policy approach, the purposes of achieving regime change and the overthrow of the Revolution were never abandoned by the Obama administration. Facts, statements and documents of the period prove it.
However, his successor in the White House, Donald Trump, and his main foreign policy advisors would unabashedly resume the Monroist discourse. One of the statements that generated the most headlines was that of his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who, during a tour of Latin America, stated that the Monroe Doctrine “is as relevant today as the day it was written”. These statements were not only a reaction to a greater presence of China and Russia in the region, but were a response to the non-acceptance of “foreign ideologies” such as those defended by Cuba and Venezuela, although at the heart of the matter we know that the real concern is the disconnection from the system of US imperial domination that the examples of the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions signify.
Today it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are witnessing a world in geopolitical transition and an accelerated decline of US hegemony at the global level. The U.S. power elite in this scenario clings more and more to the Monroist philosophy and, faced with a state of imperial oversizing that prevents it from maintaining control in much more distant geographical areas -as has occurred in Africa and the Middle East-, it is logical that its attention should be focused on the area that for 200 years it has considered its vital space of reproduction and hegemonic expansion: Latin America and the Caribbean. From the imperial logic, what is at stake is to recover the lost ground at any cost in the face of the advance of China, Russia and the progressive and leftist governments themselves. Latin America and the Caribbean continue to be the top priority in U.S. foreign policy. The head of the U.S. Southern Command, Laura Richardson, recently reaffirmed this when, in a conversation with the Atlantic Council think tank, she said:
“If I talk about my number two adversary in the region, Russia, I mean, I have, of course, the relations between the countries of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua with Russia. But why is this region important? With all its rich resources and rare earth elements, you have the lithium triangle, which today is necessary for technology. 60% of the world’s lithium is in the lithium triangle: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, you have the largest oil reserves, light sweet crude discovered off Guyana more than a year ago. You have the resources of Venezuela as well, with oil, copper, gold. We have the lungs of the world, the Amazon. We also have 31% of the world’s fresh water in this region. I mean, it’s out of the ordinary. This region matters. It has to do with National Security and we have to step up our game.”[xiv]
The scenario that is being drawn is one of opportunities before the gaps and weaknesses of the imperial system itself and the continuous mistakes of the right wing without an alternative project to offer to our peoples, but also of great dangers before the growth of neo-fascist tendencies that are glimpsed on the horizon and also in other parts of the world, especially in Europe. The systemic crisis of imperialism itself leads to increasingly violent and reactionary reactions, given the loss of capacity to maintain the expanded accumulation of capital and the rebellions and rebellions that arise one after another in the periphery and in the very centers of domination, the results of which announce the birth of a multipolar world. In this process, the left forces of the region have a unique moment to relaunch as never before the processes of unity and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean. The conjunctures are very changeable and shifting, tomorrow will be too late. Only united will we be truly free and an international actor with an influential place in the destinies of humanity, which must move urgently, so as not to disappear, towards a change of civilizational paradigm. Otherwise, the United States would once again fall upon our lands in the Americas, breaking the balance of the world, at a time when there may be no way back to save not only the independence and sovereignty of our peoples, but even the human species itself.
As the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, pointed out at the first Ibero-American Summit, in Guadalajara, Mexico, on July 18, 1991: “The time has come to fulfill with deeds and not with words the will of those who dreamed one day for our peoples a great common homeland that would be worthy of universal respect and recognition”.
In the 21st century, the Monroe Doctrine is as alive as it was in 1823, two hundred years ago. But the ideals and struggles of our peoples are also alive. The ideals and struggles of the Latin American and Caribbean heroes who gave their lives for the independence and unity of Our America are alive today more than ever.
In this year 2023, what we truly commemorate is the 95th anniversary of the birth of one of the highest paradigms of revolutionaries for all times, Ernesto Che Guevara, who gave his life to the emancipation of the Latin American, Caribbean, African peoples and the entire global south under the imperialist yoke, our greatest commitment must be, without dogmas and atavisms that hinder the way, the struggle for social justice and the unity and integration of our peoples.
[i] Letter from Simón Bolívar to Colonel Patricio Campbell, British Chargé d’Affaires to the Government of Colombia, Guayaquil, August 5, 1829.
[ii] James Knox Polk, President of the United States between 1845 and 1849.
[iii] Rutherford Birchard Hayes, President of the United States between 1877 and 1881.
[iv] Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States between 1901 and 1909.
[v] George F. Kennan (1904-2005). American diplomat and government advisor and author of the doctrine of containment against communism.
[vi] Indalecio Liévano Aguirre: Bolívarismo y monroísmo, Editorial Revista Colombiana, Bogotá, 1971, pp.40-41.
[vii] See Elier Ramírez Cañedo, La miseria en nombre de la libertad, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana, pp.67-74.
[viii] Speech by José Martí at Hardman Hall, New York, November 30, 1889.
[ix] José Martí, “Congreso Internacional de Washington, su historia, sus elementos y sus tendencias”, Obras Completas, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana, 1975, t. 6, p. 46.
[x] José Martí, “El tercer año del Partido Revolucionario Cubano”, Obras Completas, Editorial Nacional de Cuba, Havana. t. 3, p.142.
[xi]Quoted by Juan Nicolás Padrón in: The U.S. war against Cuba in the neocolonial republic (II), La Jiribilla, August 3, 2022.
[xii] New World Encyclopedia. “Monroe Doctrine.” New World Encyclopedia. October 18, 2018. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Monroe_Doctrine.
[xiii] Speech delivered by Commander Fidel Castro Ruz, at the farewell ceremony given to him by the people of Chile, at the National Stadium, Santiago de Chile, December 2, 1971.
[xiv] See on the Internet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBHznUxu2_E
Elier Ramírez Cañedo
This article was produced by Resumen.
The US supplying cluster bombs and depleted uranium to Ukraine - and Ukraine using them - is an admission that the territories have now been permanently lost to Russia.
Ukraine is over one month into its long-awaited counteroffensive, with bleak results. Russia has held its defensive line, backed by only a partially mobilized army. On the other hand - Ukraine has seemingly been giving it their all - several rounds of mobilization backed by logistics, weaponry, and armor courtesy of NATO countries.
Throughout the course of the war, Ukraine - and the West - have obfuscated the actual losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Ukraine also admits to making up heroic stories - like the “Ghost of Kiev” - to stir up public support. Through the fog of war, maintaining the narrative is important. It allows for public support, the proliferation of weapons, and financial support.
The fog is now clearing. Kiev is losing territory, weapons, tanks, and - most important of all now - the narrative. The counteroffensive is an absolute catastrophe and an objective failure - Kiev even admits losing 20% of its weapons and armor.
The United States, even before the start of the Russian invasion - was Kiev’s main supporter. Billions of taxpayer dollars given to Ukraine for aid primarily went to weapons and ammunition. The Russian invasion presented the United States with a unique situation where it could attempt to weaken Russia without sacrificing a single American or NATO soldier - they had the Ukrainians to do it for them.
US Senator Lindsey Graham even brazenly admits that "Russians dying" is the "best money the US has ever spent." If the war is indeed an investment for the United States to weaken Russia, the gap to get the most bang for its buck is closing.
The United States, in order to make sure it can inflict as much damage as possible within this closing gap, is now resorting to sending horrific weapons that will at best temporarily hold off a Russian advance and at worst pollute and destroy the region for years to come.
Early on in the failed counteroffensive, the destruction of NATO weaponry such as the Leopard and Bradley tanks prompted the US to approve depleted uranium rounds for Ukraine. Depleted uranium shells are effective at destroying armor, but leave a devastating side effect - they completely pollute the air, leaving catastrophic effects for years to come. The United States used DU shells in Fallujah - now, over a decade later, the city is nearly permanently altered. Children are born with horrific birth defects that can be fatal, cancer and miscarriage rates are sky-high, and uranium is even detected in human tissue.
A few weeks after the approval and delivery of depleted uranium came the arrival of the cluster bombs - sparking worldwide outrage. Cluster munitions contain packs of submunition that can either detonate on impact or detonate years later. The usage of the bomb is banned by over 100 countries because of the likelihood of the weapon indiscriminately killing civilians.
The usage of both depleted uranium and cluster bombs admits a few things, and none of them spell out a victory for Ukraine.
First, Ukraine won’t gain back any strategic territory now held by Russians. The US supplying these weapons to Ukraine - and Ukraine using them - is an admission that this territory is now permanently lost, as the depleted uranium will permanently alter it and the cluster munitions will make it a death trap for civilians. Those problems will now be passed off to Russia, which will have to spend years dealing with the task of monitoring radiation levels and clearing out undetonated bombs.
It is also becoming clear that Ukraine is not only losing thousands of soldiers but its Western-delivered tanks are being rendered useless. The counteroffensive alone is estimated to cost the Armed Forces of Ukraine almost one thousand soldiers per day for a week at one point. The NATO tanks and artillery were supposed to deliver, but they didn’t - instead, images of dozens of these tanks burning and being captured spread like wildfire over Telegram. Russian President Vladimir Putin even commented that the tanks “burn nicely.” The DU rounds and cluster munitions will have to deliver what the former weaponry did not.
The incoming weapons also mean NATO is not really coming to help. The NATO summit this month was a massive disappointment for Kiev - there is no path or timeline for the war-ravaged country to join NATO, and NATO does not want to risk a direct war with Russia. US President Joe Biden said Ukraine can join when it “defeats Russia,” but this comment was made in the midst of the failing counteroffensive. As the summer days wind down, the chance for any significant breakthroughs diminishes. The delivery of these weapons - which could have happened at any point in this war - is a way to keep Ukrainian forces committed to the US goal of killing Russians.
Adding to this point is the fact that the United States completely gives up its moral high ground with the delivery of these weapons. A few “progressive” politicians in the US have spoken against the delivery of both of these types of weapons, and Joe Biden even says it was a “difficult decision” to send cluster bombs to Ukraine.
“Difficult decisions” come at desperate times - and desperate times call for desperate measures. However, these weapons won’t bring victory - or most importantly, peace - to Ukraine. For the United States, this has always been the perfect opportunity to weaken a longstanding global rival. Much to Washington’s dismay, things aren’t working out the way they intended.
As it stands, the Ukrainian military officials are restrategizing their efforts in the counteroffensive. Russian lines are strong, and the “gray zones” where clashes are occurring have not shifted in any side’s favor. If the Ukrainians are able to use their newly acquired weapons successfully, they would still have to cut through kilometers worth of Russian-mined areas while maneuvering around Russian artillery and air support.
As the region becomes permanently damaged by the use of these weapons, nations must come together to draft a permanent peace and encourage dialogue - otherwise, the United States will continue to escalate the carnage.
Shabbir Rizvi Political analyst that specializes in US foreign and domestic policy, geopolitics, and military science; Anti-war organizer.
This article was produced by Almayadeen.
Western Marxism is dominated by the use of empty phrases when the need arises for a practical intervention in the conjuncture. Slavoj Žižek, for instance, has been calling for a “stronger NATO” in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so that “European unity” can be preserved. The analytical focus is wholly tilted towards ahistorical cultural symbols. For Žižek, a “Eurasian” project is not about the reduction of European countries’ dependence on the US-led unipolar world order through trade with Russia and China. Instead, it represents a fascist third way attempting to find a balance between the individualism of the West and the collectivism of the Far East. This diagnosis is justified through a reference to the “imperial ambition” that is found in “one direction of Russian culture”. The vagueness of this perspective obscures the concrete complexity of the Russian social formation. Its central driver is not, as Žižek suggests, the “ideological madness” of Russian politics, but rather a sovereigntist position that pragmatically operates based on multiple ideologies, challenging the legitimacy of US imperialism. Putin’s geopolitical opposition to the American empire, rooted in a recentralized state system benefiting from extractive ventures, has given rise not to fascism, but to Realpolitik. This approach deploys ideological plurality to contest USA’s hegemonic narratives.
The inability of Western Marxism to situate the dynamics of class struggle in a ramified system of contradictions can be traced to a disciplinary division that forms the core of the imperial academia in the Global North: the ontic or empirical domain appropriate for the sciences; and the ontological or transcendental domain studied by philosophy. This is a neo-Kantian postulate that presents the socio-historic mediation of the objective natural world as a barrier that prevents the human subject from knowing how it is in itself. Considering it is unfeasible to isolate the subjective from the objective, or the human from the non-human, it is senseless to inquire about the essence of anything independently of our relationship with it. Insofar as the difference between the subject and the object is rendered as internal to the subject itself, a subjective order is constituted whose coherence is guaranteed not by an external reference to an ontologically independent reality but by an epistemologically self-sufficient index of constructability. The consistency of these indexes, in turn, is supplied by a second-order subjective structure, which must also be subsumed at a higher level, and so on, thus initiating an infinite regress. This outcome can be obviated only through the positing of an originary independent subject. Hence, we arrive at the idealism of the subject, according to which the human being is an embodiment of a self-constituting subjective essence.
The paradigmatic example of Western Marxism’s subjective idealism is provided by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Their book “Dialectic of Enlightenment” is structured by a binary between the subsumptive abstraction of capitalism and the enlightened sublimation effected by reflexive reason. The totalizing tendencies of “Enlightenment thought” are believed to have occluded the meaningful particularity of nature, consequently giving birth to “instrumental rationality”. This can be corrected through the discerning negativity of reason, which serves as a mediator of human significance by integrating nature into the network of social memory and history. As Ray Brassier notes, this is “the rehabilitation of a fully anthropomorphic ‘living’ nature – in other words, the resurrection of Aristotelianism: nature as repository of anthropomorphically accessible meaning, of essential purposefulness, with the indwelling, auratic telos of every entity providing an intelligible index of its moral worth.” In this instance, the notion of practice only includes the objectivization of the dialectical forms of consciousness, neglecting the subjectivization of the objective dialectic that is constitutive of nature. The human mediation of nature is itself mediated by natural history; the reflexive negativity of reason is always-already circumscribed by the irreflexive negativity of nature.
For dialectical materialism, the idealist inflation of reason ignores the scientific truth of cosmic extinction, which functions as the originary purposelessness driving all organic or psychological purposefulness. Friedrich Engels remarks: “in nature – in so far as we ignore man’s reverse action upon nature – there are only blind, unconscious agencies acting upon one another, out of whose interplay the general law comes into operation…nothing happens as a consciously desired aim.” The concept of a purpose or aim for the universe is dissolved in the context of universal interaction. Humanity emerges within it, develops, and ultimately disappears within it. The idea of the highest aim of human existence is rationalized through the comprehension of its necessary genesis, development, and death within the interdependence of all forms of motion of universal matter. The change, contingency, evolution, and integration that characterize the universal metabolism of nature lead to the self-emergence of the human, whose dialectical power of self-development is dependent upon its physical corporeal existence within the folds of nature. This represents an immanent logical framework, wherein complex intelligibility is divorced from the unicity of meaning. Contrary to Adorno and Horkheimer, who believe that commemorative reflection should give rise to a narrative representation of nature’s presumed richness, the world does not have an author, and there is no inherent narrative encoded in its structure. Nature does not unfold like a story crafted by the self-reflective consciousness of reason.
Marxist theory, by asserting the meaninglessness of objective reality, creates a political space where the various mediations that underpin the immediacy of meaning can be explored. The best way to understand human agency would be to prioritize the neurological and social mechanisms that construct our perception of our individuality. Whereas Western Marxism hypostatizes agency as a substantive essence, dialectical materialism regards it as a formal logical condition that individuates human beings and diversifies their thoughts and behaviors. Due to its subjective idealism, Western Marxism evaporates the dynamic complexity of concrete existence in the stasis of an abstract universal. As the concept of reality becomes more abstract, its understanding becomes more obscure and easily applicable to various entities. Consider, for example, the equivalence Adorno draws between communism and fascism as two variants of “totalitarianism”. Marxism, on the other hand, begins “from the concept that expresses the real actual cause of the thing, its concrete essence”. The real-universal cause serves as a clearly articulated universal principle through which we can progressively obtain more concrete determinations. The concept that reveals the core of the matter leads to a systematic, interconnected network of determinations that express the specific aspects of the object being examined. All these distinct elements are linked together through a formal complex that logically represents reality, rather than being merely the abstract projection of a human essence. Here, it is instructive to consider Adorno and Horkheimer’s defense of the imperialist invasion of Egypt by Israel, Britain and France, aimed at controlling the Suez Canal and ousting Gamal Abdel Nasser, who pursued a project of autocentric state development. Adorno and Horkheimer called Nasser “a fascist chieftain…who conspires with Moscow”. Furthermore, Israel – a beachhead of US imperialism – was portrayed as a victim of the machinations of Arab states. One can’t help but remember Evald Ilyenkov’s words that “any ‘expert of human nature’ who thinks concretely is not satisfied with any abstract labelling of an event – murderer, soldier, or customer. Such an ‘expert’ does not see in these abstract-general terms the expression of the essence of the matter, phenomenon, human being or event.” However, this basic dictum is ignored by the abstract humanism of Western Marxism, which substitutes the concrete analysis of the concrete conjuncture with the repetition of flowery thoughts.
Insofar as conceptualization involves the analysis of the myriad mediations that form the actual concreteness of reality, it can’t limit itself to the absolutized self-consciousness advanced by abstract humanism. Human subjectivity is attained through a practical engagement with the impersonal reality in which we are situated. Abstract self-consciousness cannot achieve the transition from its simple, essentialist, or egocentric form, where it is certain of its existence, to a self-consciousness that imparts determinateness upon its unity. The sole accomplishment of egocentric self-consciousness is reinforcing itself by unilaterally negating anything different from itself. To break free from this purely egocentric form, the dialectical objectivity of the world needs to be fully acknowledged. This would create an onto-epistemological paradigm wherein the impersonal otherness of objective reality actively negates the putative givenness of subjectivity and pushes it towards a conjuncturally evolving path of the revolutionary re-fashioning of individuality. In the absence of this, the subject continues to treat the world as an alien other that needs to be simply subjected to the transcendental horizon of the subject. This means that new objective dimensions of the world fail to have any intrinsic impact upon the organization of subjectivity.
Western Marxism, insofar as it dissociates itself from socialist experiments, represents a state of subjective tranquility whose distance from actual involvement in organizing is matched by the grandiloquence of its invariant philosophical pronouncements. In actually existing socialist regimes, by contrast, Marxism involves a continually shifting theoretical prism that is refracted by the cadence of class struggle. “In places like Cuba and China,” writes Carlos L. Garrido, “when one calls themselves a communist, they are referring not simply to ideas that they agree with, but to actions which they take within the context of a Communist Party. To be a communist is not simply a matter of personal identification; it is a label that is socially earned by working with the masses through their representative organizations.” The embeddedness of comrades in the collective structure of the party indicates a non-substantive form of agency, whose source lies not in the qualitative uniqueness of an abstract essence but in the impersonality of theory and practice. That’s why comrades are characterized by “machinic impersonality” and “fungibility” – their identity consists in political relationality. Jodi Dean writes: “Interchangeability, whether between soldiers, commodities, schoolchildren, travelers, or party members, characterizes the comrade. As with puppets, cogs, and robots, commonality arises not out of identity, not out of who one is, but out of what is being done – fighting, circulating, studying, traveling, or being part of the same apparatus.”
The subjective collectivization operationalized by the party-form is seen by Western Marxists as a naturalization of the social world, which uses the “dialectical laws of matter” to elide the specificity of the transformative powers possessed by humanity. However, this criticism is based on the cult of the abstract individual who is perennially opposed to the institutional dominance of objective regularity. Politically active Marxist thought, on the other hand, implies that the autonomy of the self can be deepened only through the tracing of its immanent connections with the different aspects of objective reality. That’s why the fidelity of comrades to the truth “is, by definition, ex-centric, directed outward, beyond the limits of a merely personal integrity.” The rigorous elaboration of truth entails fully embracing and following its unfolding consequences. Fidelity suggests that our arrival at truth can only be accomplished through an impersonal process that moves away from the givenness of abstract subjectivity to the disciplined work that is undertaken under the guidance of the party-structure.
Louis Althusser once said that the subject of abstract humanism is like a “little lay god”. Even though it is immersed in reality, it is always endowed with the magnificent ability to transcend that reality. The religio-mythological connotations are not accidental. They are an evidence of the fact that Western Marxism is unable to produce a scientific analysis of the conjuncture. According to Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary destruction of the old and its replacement with the new represents the continuous progress of science. Galileo Galilei challenged the notion of Earth as the center of the universe by proposing the heliocentric model. George Stephenson revolutionized transportation by inventing the steam locomotive. Charles Darwin transformed biology by proposing the theory of evolution. Karl Marx brought about an economic revolution through his studies of capitalism, imperialism, and class struggles. These scientific breakthroughs are condensed in revolutionary theory, which Ho Chi Minh describes as “the science of laws governing the development of nature and society”. Thus, revolutionary theory presupposes that “[r]eality is problems to be solved and contradictions lying within things.” As human production, knowledge, and science advance, the Kantian thing-in-itself tends to fade away. This reflects the maturation of a dialectical and relational perspective that enables us to understand the world in which we belong. Communist politics can be carried out only on this basis.
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
In 2023, different climatic anomalies have been recorded that set new historical records in the tragic progression of climate change at the global level.
Thus, in June, the surface temperature in the North Atlantic reached the maximum increase of 1.3 degrees Celsius with respect to preindustrial values. In a similar direction—although in lower values—the average temperature of the seas at the global level increased. On the other hand, the retraction of Antarctic ice reached a new limit, reaching the historical decrease of 2016, but several months earlier in the middle of the cold season.
The combination of these records has led scientists who follow these processes to warn of the danger of a profound change in the currents that regulate temperature and life in the oceans and globally. The heat waves recorded on the coasts of a large part of the world—in Ireland, Mexico, Ecuador, Japan, Mauritania, and Iceland—may, in turn, be proof of this.
These phenomena, of course, are not limited to the seas. On Thursday, July 6, the global air temperature (measured at two meters above the ground) reached 17.23 degrees Celsius for the first time in the history of the last centuries, 1.68 degrees Celsius higher than preindustrial values; last June was already the warmest month in history. Meanwhile, temperatures on the continents, particularly in the North, also broke records: 40 degrees Celsius in Siberia, 50 degrees Celsius in Mexico, the warmest June in England in the historical series that began in 1884.
And its counterpart, droughts, such as the one plaguing Uruguay, where the shortage of fresh water since May has forced the increasing use of brackish water sources, making tap water undrinkable for the inhabitants of the Montevideo metropolitan area, where 60 percent of the country’s population is concentrated. This is a drought that, if it continues, could leave this region of the country without drinking water, making it the first city in the world to suffer such a catastrophe.
But the stifling heat and the droughts also bring with them voracious fires, such as the boreal forest fire that has been raging across Canada for weeks, with more than 500 outbreaks scattered in different regions of the country, many of them uncontrollable, and the widespread images of an apocalyptic New York darkened and stained red under a blanket of ashes.
This accumulation of tragic evidence, against all the denialist narratives, makes it undeniable that the climate crisis is already here, among us. It also indicates the absolute failure of the policies and initiatives adopted to reduce the emission or presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In this direction, in May of 2023, the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) measured at NOAA’s global reference observatory in Hawaii reached an all-time high of 424 parts per million (ppm), becoming more than 50 percent higher than before the beginning of the industrial era and, those of the period January—May 2023, 0.3 percent higher than those of the same period of 2022 and 1.6 percent compared to that of 2019. According to the latest report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global surface temperature has risen faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period for at least the last 2,000 years, the same period in which international agreements and national initiatives to combat the causes of climate change were deployed. The failure of these policies is also reflected, in our present, in the persistence and strength of a fossil capitalism and its plundering and socio-environmental destruction.
Not only have these so-called mitigation policies failed, but also the so-called adaptation policies aimed at minimizing the foreseeable impacts of climate change are weak or even absent.
In the same vein, the annual report of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO, Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update) released in May 2023 warned that it is very likely (66 percent probability) that the annual average global temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius in at least one year of the next five years (2023-2027), it is possible (32 percent probability) that the average temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, and it is almost certain (98 percent probability) that at least one of the next five years, as well as the five-year period as a whole, will be the warmest on record; The IPCC has estimated serious consequences if this temperature is exceeded permanently.
How close to this point will the arrival of the El Niño phenomenon place us this year and possibly in the coming years? El Niño is an event of climatic origin that expresses itself in the warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and manifests itself in cycles of between three and eight years. With antecedents in the 19th century, in 1924 climatologist Gilbert Walker coined the term “Southern Oscillation” to identify it and in 1969 meteorologist Jacob Bjerknes suggested that this unusual warming in the eastern Pacific could unbalance the trade winds and increase the warm waters toward the east, that is, toward the intertropical coasts of South America.
But this is not simply a traditional meteorological phenomenon that recurs in irregular annual periods. It is not a natural phenomenon; however many attempts are made, time and again, to make invisible or deny its social causes. On the contrary, in recent decades, the dynamics of the climate crisis have increased both in frequency and intensity. Already in early 2023, the third continuous La Niña episode concluded, the third time since 1950 that it has extended over three years and with increasing intensity. Likewise, in 2016, El Niño led to the average temperature record reached by the planet. And different scientists estimate today that this Super El Niño may be repeated today with unknown consequences given the levels of greenhouse gases and the dynamics of the current climate crisis.
The banners of a change inspired by social and climate justice and the effective paths of this socio-ecological transition raised by popular movements are becoming more imperative and urgent today. It is possible to propose an emergency popular mitigation and adaptation plan. But to make these alternatives socially audible, to break with the ecological blindness that wants to impose itself, it is first necessary to break the epistemological construction that wants to inscribe these catastrophes, repeatedly and persistently, in a world of supposedly pure nature, in a presumably external field, alien and outside human social control.
This is a matrix of naturalization that, while excluding social groups and the mode of socioeconomic organization from any responsibility for the current crises, wants to turn them into unpredictable and unknowable events that only leave the option of resignation, religious alienation, or individual resilience. The questioning of these views is inscribed not only in the discourses but also in the practices and emotions, in responding to the catastrophe with the (re)construction of bonds and values of affectivity, collectivity, and solidarity—indispensable supports for emancipatory change.
José Seoane is a professor and researcher at the Faculty of Social Sciences (FCSoc) at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), where he is a member of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Group (GEAL) at the Institute of Latin American and Caribbean Studies (IEALC). He is also a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
Hollywood Executives Bring Industry to Halt Rather Than Pay Workers a Fair Price By: Sonali KolhatkarRead Now
Refusing to negotiate better compensation and fair working conditions for actors and writers, major film and television studios are to blame for the work stoppages afflicting their industry.
Hollywood has come to a standstill this summer as actors join their writer colleagues on the picket line. The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) announced that it would be on strike starting July 14, 2023, over negotiations breaking down with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents most of the major studios in the film and television industry. That same body failed to negotiate in good faith with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which has been on strike since May 2, 2023. Together, writers and actors represent the majority of creative talent in the most influential film industry in the world.
Even before the SAG-AFTRA strike, labor activity had been surging across the board. Axios tallied the number of striking workers from January to May every year since 2021 and found that by the end of May 2023, there were 119,000 striking workers in the United States—far more than the number on strike during the same period in the previous two years.
Since May, the number of striking workers has surged even higher as 15,000 hotel workers employed by about 60 hotels in Los Angeles went on strike. This was quickly followed by SAG-AFTRA’s 160,000 actors launching their strike, and coming on their heels was the announcement that 340,000 UPS workers could be going on a nationwide strike in August in what would be “the largest strike against a single employer in U.S. history.”
Hollywood’s rank and file joins a phenomenon that has been dubbed #HotLaborSummer, a moment when workers in industries across the nation are making themselves heard about poor working conditions and low pay. Already, production on television shows has halted with the writers’ strike. Viewers anticipating the return of their favorite TV shows in September will likely be waiting a while. As highly anticipated summer movies like “Barbie” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” hit theaters, actors will not attend press junkets, San Diego Comic Con, or any other publicity-related events to promote their projects. The Emmy Awards Show will either be empty of actors and writers or have to be postponed altogether.
In spite of the power they wield in numbers, actors and writers are facing off against moneyed interests that are so flush with cash and other projects that they can afford to wait out the workers. A shocking report in Deadline on how AMPTP plans to drag its feet on negotiating with writers suggests that the same could be in store for actors: “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline. Acknowledging the cold-as-ice approach, several other sources reiterated the statement. One insider called it “a cruel but necessary evil.” If the strike were an on-screen plot, AMPTP executives would be the undisputed villains.
Unlike a potential UPS strike, which could economically devastate the company within days and cost the entire U.S. economy more than $7 billion over 10 days, Hollywood studios feel they can dig in their heels. According to the Deadline report, “as network schedules shift to unscripted shows and streamers buy up foreign content, the studios and streamers have been saving money on shuttered productions and cost-cutting.”
Filmmaker Boots Riley, whose new “anti-capitalist” streaming series “I’m a Virgo” has garnered serious accolades, called it a “union-busting tactic” on Twitter and added, “they want 2break [sic] us.” He told the Hollywood Reporter that the studios are “trying to put forward… a message that you’re not going to be able to have a say in how we do things.”
Indeed, that’s precisely what the Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger seemed to be saying when he claimed that the actors on strike “have to be realistic about the business environment and what this business can deliver.” Iger and his fellow entertainment industry executives appear to be claiming that it’s simply impossible for companies like Disney to continue to remain viable and pay its writers and actors what they want.
But, consider the shocking disparity in pay between rank-and-file workers and their bosses. Actor Kendrick Sampson, who is known for his work on “The Vampire Diaries” and “Insecure,” and who is a common fixture at Black Lives Matter protests in Los Angeles, illustrated on his Instagram page just how poorly he is compensated in residuals, or royalty payments—a major point of contention in negotiations with AMPTP. From the 50 residual checks he opened, he counted a grand total of only $86 in residual payments. “This is why we strike,” explained Sampson.
Meanwhile, Disney CEO Iger recently spent $7 million in renovations alone on his lavish $33 million Los Angeles mansion. Forbes reported in 2019 that he was worth about $690 million—a figure so unimaginably large that he could afford to work for free and would never want for anything. In spite of this, he siphons off $27 million a year in compensation to run Disney.
What’s most potentially powerful about the actors’ strike is the narrative force it wields across the country and the world. Movies and television shows influence our thinking on so many social issues. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, actors are loved and lauded. Now, they’re under attack from greedy millionaires and billionaires.
“Abbott Elementary” star Sheryl Lee Ralph, a veteran, award-winning actor, explained it in plain terms: “We’re fighting for our art… We’re fighting for what we love, and what we know people love. We’re not big million-dollar companies. No, we’re people, and we want to enjoy what we do, and we want to make a living at it. That’s what this is about.”
The actors’ decision to strike could spark interest in labor issues and in the oppositional dynamic between bosses and workers that Ralph articulated. If our favorite movie stars are on a picket line demanding better pay and fairer working conditions just so they can survive doing what they love to do, it could have a ripple effect, inspiring others to make similar demands of their own employers.
In contrast to Ralph, AMPTP sounds heartless, responding to the SAG-AFTRA strike in a statement, saying, “The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.” There was no mention of the financial hardship that AMPTP has put union members through, as industry executives deflect blame on everyone but themselves, casting beloved actors as the villains.
Iger lamented that striking actors “are adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing, that is quite frankly, very disruptive.” But disruption is precisely the point. If it were convenient, a worker strike would affect nothing.
Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her most recent book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
The strike by tens of thousands of US film and television actors officially began Friday. The actors, members of the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), have now joined the 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), on strike since May 2.
The actors and writers are striking against the cabal of giant film and television production companies organized in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over fundamental economic issues. Each group of workers has lost substantial income through the introduction of streaming services, the end of decent residual pay and the various means by which the industry is “casualizing” labor and turning the acting and writing professions into forms of “gig” employment. Artificial Intelligence, in the hands of the corporate predators, promises even more devastating attacks on income and jobs.
Striking writers in Los Angeles July 14, 2023
However, powerful social and cultural currents are also at work in the current entertainment industry walkout, which the actors have now joined with considerable enthusiasm and élan.
In Los Angeles, there was large-scale picketing outside the major studios. In New York, strikers marched outside the offices of companies such as Netflix, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery.
The scenes of mass picketing in both cities, with great numbers of performers and writers and thousands of young people, in particular, participating, had a generally rebellious, celebratory character. At last, the strikers and their supporters seemed to be saying, at last we have a chance to challenge the swine on top. Slogans about “corporate greed” and “greedy bosses,” organized by the unions, may have had their generic character, but many chanted with genuine enthusiasm. Between the writers and actors a strong sense of unity and solidarity prevailed.
SAG-AFTRA members joining WGA writers on the picket line, July 14, 2023.
It is already obvious that the “double strike” by actors and writers is a pole of attraction generating great public interest and support. It has focused attention on the questions that the media and the entertainment industry itself have deliberately suppressed: vast and malignant social inequality, the relentless drive by the giant corporations against workers’ conditions and rights, the harsh reality of social life for tens of millions in America.
Many prominent performers joined the picketing, including, according to Deadline, Allison Janney, Timothy Olyphant, Josh Gad, Sean Astin, Charlie Barnett, Joey King, Chloe Fineman, Susan Sarandon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Patton Oswalt, Marg Helgenberger, Jake McDorman, Constance Zimmer, Michelle Hurd and Jason Sudeikis.
SAG-AFTRA members join writers on picket line in New York City July 14, 2023
The vast majority of actors do not make a living wage or even find work on a regular basis. Only a small percentage earn enough annually to qualify for the union’s health care threshold of $26,470. At the same time, they are well aware that an executive such as Ted Sarandon of Netflix earns that “threshold” amount every two days.
The appearance of a report July 11 in Deadline, the entertainment publication, revealing that the strategy of the AMPTP is to starve the writers out over the course of months has sparked outrage among film and television workers. According to the article, “Receiving positive feedback from Wall Street since the WGA went on strike May 2, Warner Bros Discovery, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Paramount and others have become determined to ‘break the WGA,’ as one studio exec blatantly put it.”
The studios and the AMPTP “believe that by October most writers will be running out of money after five months on the picket lines and no work. ‘The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,’ a studio executive told Deadline. Acknowledging the cold-as-ice approach, several other sources reiterated the statement. One insider called it ‘a cruel but necessary evil.’” This is the real face of American “democracy”: if workers use their legal right to strike, destroy them.
The strike is already one of the largest in years in the US. But the actors and writers themselves are well aware that huge battalions of the working class are waiting in the wings. Numerous strikers refer in particular to the hundreds of thousands of UPS workers whose contract expires July 31. Actress Susan Sarandon told one reporter in New York Friday, “We see the teachers striking, we have the UPS workers about to go out. The railroad people should have been able to go out and Biden busted that strike.” One writer, speaking to the WSWS Thursday in New York, linked the strike by the writers and actors with the potential strikes by UPS and other sections of workers. He thought we might see a “summer of strikes.”
Actors and writers on the picket line, July 14, 2023.
A WSWS reporter offered this report on the first day of the strike in Los Angeles: “Despite the heat, writers and actors marched together at the picket lines in front of Amazon Studios today. The writers generally felt relieved and reinvigorated by the actors joining the struggle. Though the writers have been on strike for months, there was a sense that long-awaited reinforcements had finally found their way to the battle. Many of the writers were actors, and many of the actors were writers, and they readily understood the struggles the others confronted. They face the common problems of pay and residuals, casualization, and the threat of replacement by AI, and they work for and are striking against the same studios. There was a real sense that their struggles were inseparable.
“Moreover, it was easy to talk to workers about broader struggles. When we raised the struggle at UPS and at the docks, workers intuitively supported the struggles by other sections of the working class. One said that ‘the pendulum had swung in one direction for too long,’ and that it was finally beginning to turn around. Of course, the political questions have yet to be worked through, but there is definitely a feeling that their struggle is part of a broader counteroffensive of the working class.”
A WSWS reporter described the picketing in New York at Amazon/HBO headquarters on the far West Side in midtown Manhattan and at Paramount Studios in the heart of the theater district in Times Square: “There were about 150 pickets at each location. Even though they were kept moving in a tight circle, the mood was exuberant, particularly when passing cars, trucks and double-decker busloads carrying tourists honked their support. There was broad receptivity to our leaflets and receptivity to our slogans calling for the broadest support of their strike, its significance for other sections of the working class both in the US and internationally, and its cultural impact.
“One actor who spoke with us spoke out strongly against the inequality between the producers and the actors on strike. He denounced the producers, ‘who are multi-millionaires and billionaires for trying to play poor and not give actors their fair share. It is not right.’ Another called attention to the ‘type of people we’re dealing with here who are trying to starve the writers [referring to the Deadline article]. She was amazed at their callousness and called attention in addition to the families who were dependent on the writers. ‘How can you starve people out like that?’”
Picket sign in New York City July 14, 2023
For the moment, the US media is stunned. Believing their own drivel about American society, the media pundits are astonished by the expression of mass popular hostility to the corporate oligarchy and, even more threateningly, by implication, the entire “free enterprise” system.
The various union bureaucracies that conspired to isolate the writers’ strike in the interests of the corporations—the Teamsters, IATSE and the rest—have also been set back on their heels. Their plans have been disrupted.
These forces will regroup and launch new attacks on the writers and actors. SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher continued her posturing Friday as a ferocious opponent of the “very greedy entity,” the AMPTP. On the first day of picketing, she insisted that “If we don’t take control of this situation from these greedy megalomaniacs, we are all going to be in threat of losing our livelihoods.” In fact, what Drescher and the National Board of SAG-AFTRA are desperately seeking is a few crumbs from the corporations they can present to their members as a “historic” victory.
The thousands of actors and writers should make it their business now to direct themselves toward the great mass of the working class, who face the same attacks and who also are looking for an opportunity to fight. There is absolutely no reason, except the opposition of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA leaderships, why actors and writers should not explain their case at factories, hospitals, schools and other workplaces, and build up support for a far wider strike movement. To lead the sort of political, social and industrial offensive that’s called for, actors and writers need to take command of their own strike through democratically organized rank-and-file committees, outside the control of the union bureaucracies.
David Walsh is the World Socialist Web Site Arts Editor. He began to write about art and culture for the Bulletin, the newspaper of the Workers League, the predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States, in September 1991. Walsh was instrumental in the expansion of coverage of artistic and cultural developments with the launch of the WSWS seven years later. He is the author of The Sky Between the Leaves, a collection of essays on film, culture and socialism available from Mehring Books.
This article was produced by World Socialist Website.
200 delegates from 40 organizations are gathering in South Africa for the “Dilemmas of Humanity: Pan African Dialogues to Build Socialism” conference. For the next four days, progressive movements and organizations will discuss the challenges posed by capitalism, and articulate the socialist way forward
On Monday, July 17, 200 delegates from progressive organizations, political parties, people’s movements, and trade unions across the African continent will gather in Bela-Bela, South Africa for the “Dilemmas of Humanity: Pan African Dialogues to Build Socialism” conference.
Over the course of four days, delegates will interact and deliberate on the myriad challenges that capitalism poses for working class people today, and importantly, advance concrete proposals of action to build socialism “within our lifetime.”
Hosted by Pan Africanism Today (PAT), the conference will bring together almost 40 organizations from 17 countries, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG), the Socialist Party (SP) of Zambia, the Workers’ Democratic Way party from Morocco, as well as social and peasant movements including Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) from South Africa and Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima (MVIWATA) from Tanzania.
The event is being held at a critical juncture. “The world is changing, and it is changing very fast, the exploitation of the working class has deepened, [and] imperialism is getting more belligerent,” Kwesi Pratt Junior, the General Secretary of the SMG, told Peoples Dispatch ahead of the conference.
Though the “instruments of war are being sharpened, so is the resistance to imperialism and capitalism,” he stressed. “It is important for progressive anti-imperialist forces around the world to meet and strategize, to think through these changes, and to develop a means of solidarity and a means of activating our struggles until final victory.”
This was also emphasized by NUMSA national spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, “This is a crucial conference given that, geopolitically, there is a conversation around the creation of a “new international world order,” a framework where we do not have the dominance of one entity– the US. There are discussions about the possibilities of a multipolar world, where the Global South will play a much more prominent role.”
In this context, “it is very important for the working class to come together with a very clear framework, and clear demands about what we want from these discussions. We are tired of being used to rubber-stamp policies that leave us worse off. There has been a dominance of neoliberalism in South Africa, it is destroying us…If there are going to be conversations about us [the Global South] playing a greater role in a multipolar world, then we [the working class] should not be left behind. Our demands should take center stage,” she added.
The conference is part of the Dilemmas of Humanity process which is aimed at the “transformation of society and revolutionary change.” It is one of several regional conferences ahead of the III International Dilemmas of Humanity Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa in October.
The regional conferences, including the one being convened in Bela-Bela, have created a space for “movement leaders from all over the African continent to gather for the first time in many years to articulate our vision and path to socialism,” Jonis Ghedi-Alasow from the Pan Africanism Today (PAT) Secretariat, told Peoples Dispatch.
The movements and organizations represented at the conference have been at the frontlines of the struggle against capitalist and imperialist exploitation in all its forms— be it in the struggle for land, for the dignity of the working class in the face of poverty wages and neoliberal austerity, or the fight for self-determination and sovereignty.
These struggles have in turn informed the eight central themes of the conference — Building socialism through food sovereignty, agroecology, and the defense of nature; Demands for health, science, and technology as a matter of dignity; Gender struggles to end patriarchy; Organizing the workers: employed, unemployed, organized and unorganized; Building the future of our youth through quality education for liberation; Urban struggles for dignified housing; Battle of ideas: art, culture, media, and communications; and Sovereignty and self-determination: security, militarization, and national liberation.
“For us, in the PAT Secretariat, we are confident that this conference will emerge with new momentum for a revolutionary Pan-Africanism, built on the struggles and victories of the African continent’s working people,” Ghedi-Alasow said.
Crucially, while delegates may hail from diverse social, political, and economic conditions and struggles, the spirit of solidarity and unity will guide the forthcoming discussions in the conference. As Pratt affirmed, “the struggle against imperialism is one [united] struggle, it is not [solely] a trade union struggle, or a struggle around issues of gender, it is a peoples’ struggle against exploitation and oppression.”
This article was produced by Peoples Dispatch.
COMMUNISTS CONDEMN DEATH THREATS AGAINST BROTHERS ALEXANDER AND MIKHAIL KONONOVICH IN UKRAINE By: MLTodayRead Now
Communist Party of Ireland Statement: Solidarity with Aleksander Kononovich and his brother Mikhail Kononovich
The Communist Party of Ireland joins communist parties and other leftist and progressive forces around the world in condemning the death threats, persecution and other forms of ongoing intimidation against communist youth leaders Aleksander Kononovich and his brother Mikhail Kononovich who are under house arrest in Ukraine.
Following the onset of the proxy NATO war against Russia in Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) arrested the Kononovich brothers, leaders of the Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine (LKSMU), in the capital Kiev on March 6, 2022, and put them in jail. The arrest triggered widespread protests from progressive and communist groups in Europe and abroad, who denounced the move as part of the purge initiated by EU-NATO-backed Ukranian authorities against communists, socialists, and other critics of the Zelensky regime in the name of ‘national security’.
In July 2022, a show trial of the Kononovich brothers started in the Solomensky District Court in Kiev. They were placed under house arrest in Kiev – although they have committed no crime, other than opposition to the genocidal war and the destruction of their country to serve US imperial interests.
Earlier this week, the Kononovich brothers, in an appeal, stated that President Volodymyr Zelensky’s regime was trying to assassinate them. They reported that a police officer, Yevgen Kravchuk, had repeatedly come to their home and threatened to murder them. The same officer also made a Facebook post issuing a public call for their murder and revealing the address of their house. In the wake of such threats, the CPI reiterates the demand for the immediate release of the brothers.
Even before the onset of the current war in Ukraine, the post-coup Zelensky regime had initiated a policy of ‘decommunisation’ and persecution of communists. In May 2015, decommunisation laws came into effect in Ukraine, meaning that the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) could not use communist symbols or sing ‘The Internationale’. The KPU was banned from contesting elections in 2015. Its publication Rabochaya Gazeta was banned and its leaders and members faced police repression and assaults from far-right groups.
Braving all these difficulties, members of the KPU and LKSMU continued to organise protests against decommunisation, pro-corporate land reforms, government support to neo-Nazi groups, the rise in electricity and water prices, and NATO expansionism. They also organized campaigns calling for a peaceful resolution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The CPI urges all progressive forces in Ireland and abroad to show solidarity with and support for our communist comrades in Ukraine and shares the following statement from the Kononowicz brothers:
“We, the Kononowicz brothers, Ukrainian communists and anti-fascists, appeal to the World Federation of Democratic Youth, to the communists, to all leftists and anti-fascists in Europe and the world.
We officially declare that the Zelensky regime is preparing our assassination. The regime, led by the current policeman Yevgen Kravchuk, has publicly and repeatedly warned us of our murder. The policeman wrote calls for murder on Facebook and actively spread our residential address, knowing that we are under house arrest and cannot go anywhere, so we are trapped.
Only an active police officer can make these types of statements and appeals in public without fear of anyone. They officially outlaw us and make it clear that no one will be punished for killing us. It is the practice of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, where communists and anti-fascists were outlawed.
The Zelensky regime wants to stage a show execution.
Comrades, please, go out with protests to the embassies and consulates of Ukraine, the representative offices of the European Union, the OSCE and other authorities and international organizations to picket with the demand of the Ukrainian authorities “not to allow the murder of anti-fascists Kononovich”, please support us and do not allow our murder by the Zelensky regime.”
This article was produced by Marxism-Leninism Today.
They Lied About Afghanistan. They Lied About Iraq. And They Are Lying About Ukraine By: Chris HedgesRead Now
he playbook the pimps of war use to lure us into one military fiasco after another, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine, does not change. Freedom and democracy are threatened. Evil must be vanquished. Human rights must be protected. The fate of Europe and NATO, along with a “rules based international order” is at stake. Victory is assured.
The results are also the same. The justifications and narratives are exposed as lies. The cheery prognosis is false. Those on whose behalf we are supposedly fighting are as venal as those we are fighting against.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a war crime, although one that was provoked by NATO expansion and by the United States backing of the 2014 “Maidan” coup which ousted the democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych wanted economic integration with the European Union, but not at the expense of economic and political ties with Russia. The war will only be solved through negotiations that allow ethnic Russians in Ukraine to have autonomy and Moscow’s protection, as well as Ukrainian neutrality, which means the country cannot join NATO. The longer these negotiations are delayed the more Ukrainians will suffer and die. Their cities and infrastructure will continue to be pounded into rubble.
But this proxy war in Ukraine is designed to serve U.S. interests. It enriches the weapons manufacturers, weakens the Russian military and isolates Russia from Europe. What happens to Ukraine is irrelevant.
“First, equipping our friends on the front lines to defend themselves is a far cheaper way — in both dollars and American lives — to degrade Russia’s ability to threaten the United States,” admitted Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Second, Ukraine’s effective defense of its territory is teaching us lessons about how to improve the defenses of partners who are threatened by China. It is no surprise that senior officials from Taiwan are so supportive of efforts to help Ukraine defeat Russia. Third, most of the money that’s been appropriated for Ukraine security assistance doesn’t actually go to Ukraine. It gets invested in American defense manufacturing. It funds new weapons and munitions for the U.S. armed forces to replace the older material we have provided to Ukraine. Let me be clear: this assistance means more jobs for American workers and newer weapons for American servicemembers.”
Once the truth about these endless wars seeps into public consciousness, the media, which slavishly promotes these conflicts, drastically reduces coverage. The military debacles, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, continue largely out of view. By the time the U.S. concedes defeat, most barely remember that these wars are being fought.
The pimps of war who orchestrate these military fiascos migrate from administration to administration. Between posts they are ensconced in think tanks — Project for the New American Century, American Enterprise Institute, Foreign Policy Initiative, Institute for the Study of War, The Atlantic Council and The Brookings Institution — funded by corporations and the war industry. Once the Ukraine war comes to its inevitable conclusion, these Dr. Strangeloves will seek to ignite a war with China. The U.S. Navy and military are already menacing and encircling China. God help us if we don’t stop them.
These pimps of war con us into one conflict after another with flattering narratives that paint us as the world’s saviors. They don’t even have to be innovative. The rhetoric is lifted from the old playbook. We naively swallow the bait and embrace the flag — this time blue and yellow — to become unwitting agents in our self-immolation.
Since the end of the Second World War, the government has spent between 45 to 90 percent of the federal budget on past, current and future military operations. It is the largest sustained activity of the U.S. government. It has stopped mattering — at least to the pimps of war — whether these wars are rational or prudent. The war industry metastasizes within the bowels of the American empire to hollow it out from the inside. The U.S. is reviled abroad, drowning in debt, has an impoverished working class and is burdened with a decayed infrastructure as well as shoddy social services.
Wasn’t the Russian military — because of poor morale, poor generalship, outdated weapons, desertions, a lack of ammunition that supposedly forced soldiers to fight with shovels, and severe supply shortages — supposed to collapse months ago? Wasn’t Putin supposed to be driven from power? Weren’t the sanctions supposed to plunge the ruble into a death spiral? Wasn’t the severing of the Russian banking system from SWIFT, the international money transfer system, supposed to cripple the Russian economy? How is it that inflation rates in Europe and the United States are higher than in Russia despite these attacks on the Russian economy?
Wasn’t the nearly $150 billion in sophisticated military hardware, financial and humanitarian assistance pledged by the U.S., EU and 11 other countries supposed to have turned the tide of the war? How is it that perhaps a third of the tanks Germany and the U.S. provided were swiftly turned by Russian mines, artillery, anti-tank weapons, air strikes and missiles into charred hunks of metal at the start of the vaunted counter-offensive? Wasn’t this latest Ukrainian counter-offensive, which was originally known as the “spring offensive,” supposed to punch through Russia’s heavily fortified front lines and regain huge swathes of territory? How can we explain the tens of thousands of Ukrainian military casualties and the forced conscription by Ukraine’s military? Even our retired generals and former CIA, FBI, NSA and Homeland Security officials, who serve as analysts on networks such as CNN and MSNBC, can’t say the offensive has succeeded.
And what of the Ukrainian democracy we are fighting to protect? Why did the Ukrainian parliament revoke the official use of minority languages, including Russian, three days after the 2014 coup? How do we rationalize the eight years of warfare against ethnic Russians in the Donbass region before the Russian invasion in Feb. 2022? How do we explain the killing of over 14,200 people and the 1.5 million people who were displaced, before Russia’s invasion took place last year?
How do we defend the decision by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to ban eleven opposition parties, including The Opposition Platform for Life, which had 10 percent of the seats in the Supreme Council, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, along with the Shariy Party, Nashi, Opposition Bloc, Left Opposition, Union of Left Forces, State, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialists Party and Volodymyr Saldo Bloc? How can we accept the banning of these opposition parties — many of which are on the left — while Zelenskyy allows fascists from the Svoboda and Right Sector parties, as well as the Banderite Azov Battalion and other extremist militias, to flourish?
How do we deal with the anti-Russian purges and arrests of supposed “fifth columnists” sweeping through Ukraine, given that 30 percent of Ukraine’s inhabitants are Russian speakers? How do we respond to the neo-Nazi groups supported by Zelenskyy’s government that harass and attack the LGBT community, the Roma population, anti-fascist protests and threaten city council members, media outlets, artists and foreign students? How can we countenance the decision by the U.S and its Western allies to block negotiations with Russia to end the war, despite Kyiv and Moscow apparently being on the verge of negotiating a peace treaty?
I reported from Eastern and Central Europe in 1989 during the breakup of the Soviet Union. NATO, we assumed, had become obsolete. President Mikhail Gorbachev proposed security and economic agreements with Washington and Europe. Secretary of State James Baker in Ronald Reagan’s administration, along with the West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, assured Gorbachev that NATO would not be extended beyond the borders of a unified Germany. We naively thought the end of the Cold War meant that Russia, Europe and the U.S., would no longer have to divert massive resources to their militaries.
The so-called “peace dividend,” however, was a chimera.
If Russia did not want to be the enemy, Russia would be forced to become the enemy. The pimps of war recruited former Soviet republics into NATO by painting Russia as a threat. Countries that joined NATO, which now include Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, reconfigured their militaries, often through tens of millions in western loans, to become compatible with NATO military hardware. This made the weapons manufacturers billions in profits.
It was universally understood in Eastern and Central Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union that NATO expansion was unnecessary and a dangerous provocation. It made no geopolitical sense. But it made commercial sense. War is a business.
In a classified diplomatic cable — obtained and released by WikiLeaks — dated Feb. 1, 2008, written from Moscow, and addressed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NATO-European Union Cooperative, National Security Council, Russia Moscow Political Collective, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State, there was an unequivocal understanding that expanding NATO risked conflict with Russia, especially over Ukraine.
“Not only does Russia perceive encirclement [by NATO], and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests,” the cable reads. “Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face. . . .”
“Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, expressed concern that Ukraine was, in the long-term, the most potentially destabilizing factor in U.S.-Russian relations, given the level of emotion and neuralgia triggered by its quest for NATO membership . . .” the cable read. “Because membership remained divisive in Ukrainian domestic politics, it created an opening for Russian intervention. Trenin expressed concern that elements within the Russian establishment would be encouraged to meddle, stimulating U.S. overt encouragement of opposing political forces, and leaving the U.S. and Russia in a classic confrontational posture.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine would not have happened if the western alliance had honored its promises not to expand NATO beyond Germany’s borders and Ukraine had remained neutral. The pimps of war knew the potential consequences of NATO expansion. War, however, is their single minded vocation, even if it leads to a nuclear holocaust with Russia or China.
The war industry, not Putin, is our most dangerous enemy.
NOTE TO SCHEERPOST READERS FROM CHRIS HEDGES: There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestring budget, and I will not waver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at chrishedges.substack.com so I can continue to post my now weekly Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, The Chris Hedges Report.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.
This article was produced by ScheerPost.
EDITORS NOTE: Just before this posting of Marxism-Leninism Today, it was reported on July 16th that Teamster President Sean O’Brien had requested that President Joe Biden not involve himself in a possible strike at UPS.
Final union contract negotiations are proceeding between the Teamsters Union and the gigantic and super-profitable UPS (United Parcel Service) Corporation. Will the 330,000 union members be forced to strike on August 1? Will UPS agree to the reasonable demands of its workforce, preventing any work stoppage? Or, will UPS successfully use President Joe Biden to stall or even break the strike and save the company? Will Biden jump in even if the company doesn’t ask him to? With the recent spectacle of Biden’s contemptible wrecking of the rail union strike just 9 months ago fresh in mind, it’s a real possibility that the self-proclaimed “most pro-union President” may yet again prove that he’s not.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?
The more than 330,000 Teamster members who work for UPS generate enormous profits for the company. This landmark battle has been shaping up for almost 30 years, and has been intensifying to an unprecedented degree this year. UPS personifies the super-profitable U.S. corporation, having generated more than $22 billion dollars in profits in just the past two years alone. UPS controls more than 43% of the U.S. package delivery market and during the pandemic the company saw a huge jump in package volumes as millions of people shopped on-line and required home delivery. UPS has systematically and scientifically designed the delivery process from beginning to end to squeeze maximum efficiency from its workforce, making UPS a very difficult place to work on account of the punishing production requirements and omnipresent management surveillance of everyone at work. Every job is continuously studied, timed, and monitored; whether it be loading the package vans or the time spent delivering them out on a route. Employees who fail to meet the onerous requirements are disciplined and fired. For more information see this detailed explanation of the UPS issues by Teamsters Local 90 President and Business Agent Tanner Fischer https://youtu.be/BL95hDDoc2U from FightBack! Radio.
Almost half of the workforce are also hired as part-timers, at far lower starting wages. Combined with the backbreaking production requirements and wages as low as $16 hour, turnover is astronomical. Many of these lower-tier, lower-paid jobs were created during the Hoffa years with his full consent, and the creeping cancer of contracting-out of UPS jobs to unorganized low-wage companies likewise took root on the Hoffa watch. Today’s battle features a major union priority of eliminating the lower-tier wage schemes and limiting and rolling back the contracting-out and loss of union positions.
THE COMPANY FEARS ANGRY UNION MEMBERS
Initial company bending on the issues of two-tier elimination, air conditioning for vehicles, and granting of the ML King Jr. federal holiday were clearly offered in the hope of pacifying the increasingly agitated workforce. In the end there are many other key issues including the all-important wage package. A substantial wage package that is overdue for many reasons, not the least of which is the galloping rate of inflation and the fact that UPS workers went all-out during the pandemic – with tens of thousands sickened and countless killed by the virus. Teamster members slaved non-stop during the pandemic but have received no bonus, no “thank you” compensation from the company for Covid-19 duty, no wage increases other than those negotiated 5 years ago when the rate of inflation was low.
The expectations of the union membership are high, and they should be. The Teamster membership – now free of the corrupt misleadership of Jimmy Hoffa – appear to be ready to fight. New Teamster president Sean O’Brien led his campaign for President on the program of mounting a serious and sustained campaign to win not just a better contract at UPS, but a contract that would correct egregious past concessions from the Hoffa era – and take members forward in significant ways over the coming 5 years. All indications are – so far – that the O’Brien campaign to win a better contract at UPS is unfolding from coast-to-coast and is being greeted by members with great support and enthusiasm.
BIDEN: STRIKEBREAKER IN CHIEF
The UPS negotiations take place in their own category, much like the giant railroad labor battle of last year. Both struggles were exceptionally large in size and national in scale, especially in a U.S. labor scene that has seen the destruction of most large pattern-type union agreements. Rail and UPS both present the possibility of some national economic impact, and both have offered simple contrasts between greedy and profitable employers on the one hand, and angry union members on the others. While the UPS battle with the Teamsters may at first glance look like just a large scale but simple union-management fracas, in reality the entire corporate establishment will be in the UPS corner. Big business and its political hirelings are well aware of the danger – to them – of a Teamster win at UPS. And where will the Biden regime come down? Since Biden actively and publicly leaped into the railroad fray, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect him to do likewise with UPS?
In the case of the railroad labor negotiations, Biden cynically inserted himself personally, and by dispatching then-Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to insinuate his way into the multi-union rail negotiations. From the start Walsh’s only role was to avoid a strike with the giant and profitable rail carriers. The outrageous situation of the rail workforce – gross overwork, virtually serfdom conditions owing to a lack of time off, safety issues, badly lagging wages – had to be subordinated so that Biden could avoid the alleged economic damage that would result should the workers be allowed to strike. (For background on the rail fight see my previous articles: “Lions Led by Asses” | MLToday and Learning from the Biden Strikebreaking | MLToday )
Biden and Walsh both systematically played politics with the rail fray. For several months both spoke out against strike as an option, never once supporting the struggle of the rail workers openly. Never once did the Biden regime denounce the greed and perfidy of the rail barons, never once sounded the need for active federal intervention on behalf of the workers’ struggle against this corporate outrage. With the active collusion of several of the 13 rail union Presidents, as well as the rail corporations themselves, in the end the strike momentum was derailed and deflated, and the unions were defeated. The rail strike had been several decades in the making, and an uncontested case exists that a national railroad strike was not only justified, but it was also overdue. With the anti-worker “bag job” completed, the Biden White House declared victory – for itself – and promptly abandoned the whole affair. The rail corporations gleefully celebrated while the exhausted and demoralized rail workforce was left to listen to Biden’s continuous claim that he is “the most pro-union President in U.S. history.”
Throughout the entire rail labor drama, Biden emphasized over and over the “economic damage” that a strike by the 110,000 rail workers would do somehow to the national economy, even if the strike was short-lived. Of course, “the most pro-union President in U.S. history” apparently does not grasp the fact that strikes by their very nature are acts of last resort, and yes, are intended to damage the employer’s economic fortunes. Lost in the media reports of the rail debacle was the fact that the UPS showdown – then still at least 10 months off – involved a workforce 3 times as large as the combined rail union membership – and in many ways promised to be far more disruptive to the national economy. But the precedent was set and the question was posed; if Biden would crush the rail strike momentum of 110,00 union workers so brazenly, wasn’t it almost a sure thing that he would do likewise in the UPS fight?
TEAMSTER MEMBERS ALSO BIGGEST BIDEN TARGET IN RAIL STRIKEBREAKING
In a twist that is apparently unknown, it was the Teamsters Union that also bore the brunt of Biden’s strikebreaking in the railroad fight. Two unions: the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way (BMWE), combined, represented a majority of the rail union membership. Both unions have been affiliates of the Teamsters Union for several decades. These rail “operating” members also faced the direst situations with the rail carriers draconian attendance regimes as these workers travel extensively and frequently away from home in their work assignments and essentially were on-call practically every day of the year. Likewise forgotten is the fact that the Teamsters Union has been an independent union for nearly 20 years, having quit the AFL-CIO as part of the Change to Win movement in 2005. With the AFL-CIO already unconditionally in Biden’s grip ( See; Top AFL-CIO Leaders Cast Their Lot with Biden | MLToday ) it will be of paramount interest to see how the Federation and its unions react as the increasingly frantic White House scrambles to recruit labor allies in advance of the UPS showdown.
Teamsters President Sean O’Brien is well-aware that many of the AFL affiliate leaders will try to “have it both ways”, by telling the Teamsters they have their support and likewise telling Biden that they are in his corner. Many unions realize the key role of the Teamsters Union in their own employer fights, so outright abandonment of the Teamsters is unlikely. But the Teamsters will need to continue to be forceful with the slippery and weakling union leaderships all-too prevalent in the labor movement to prevent any significant public breach from developing. The role of the UPS company can be easily predicted, as it will do just about anything, and say just about anything, only needing to escape a strike. But it is almost a certainty that the Biden forces will continue to try to avoid or even sabotage a UPS strike – perhaps maneuvering that has already been underway for months.
Despite the ravings of some Democrats, folks in the political industry enriched by this regime, and Biden labor bootlickers, the Teamsters dare not trust this President in the UPS battle as these facts attest. The months-long Hollywood Writers strike has elicited little apparent White House support – even rhetorical statements. As that strike began more than 3 months ago Biden said he hoped that the striking writers are given a “fair deal as soon as possible”. Lifted from the standard say-something-but-don’t-do-anything political playbook, Biden has not even dispatched his hapless-and-in-need-of-an-assignment Vice President Kamala Harris to Writers Union picket duty. Has the First Lady or Cabinet members been asked to show overt support for the striking writers? Of course not.
The start of the far larger Screen Actors Guild strike now adds new pressure on Biden. Additional tens of thousands of union members are joining the picket line, also confronting the egregious corporate greed in their case by the entertainment overlords. Can Biden bring himself to carry a picket sign, even long enough for a cheap photo op? Can he bring himself to speak out clearly and forcefully against the corporations forcing these disruptions? Might the self-proclaimed “most pro-union President” find the time to stop by the Writers picket line, or the Screen Actor’s picket line, or any of the Teamster “practice pickets” now spreading across the country in front of countless UPS depots and garages? Will he?
THE TALE OF THE TAPE
A glance at the following video tape from just several years ago tells the tale. In an election eve scramble for Teamster votes and manpower in his 2020 election, Biden issued a message heaping praise on the Teamsters Union, and its soon-to-be exiled president Jimmy Hoffa. (A message from Joe Biden to the Teamsters https://youtu.be/SbECBQUd7Qw ) Praising the same Hoffa who systematically conceded all manner of work rules and two-tier schemes to UPS in previous negotiations. The same Hoffa who stood down at the last Teamster election certain in the full knowledge that his members would never re-elect him, led in large part by the giant UPS block of Teamster voters. The entire Biden message is for the members to support him in his election fight. Biden makes no mention of the rail strike then already taking shape, and certainly no mention of the inevitable UPS fight building even then. Almost 400,000 Teamster members work in UPS and the rail industry alone, but why bother to offer specifics about support that he would tender once the union was in need?
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE LEFT
As the UPS contract deadline approaches on August 1st, pay close attention. A strike is not a certainty, and there may be a settlement, or an extension of time. But should the strike materialize, this will be the largest and most important labor battle for the past – or the next – 10 years. Now joined by more than 100,000 additional entertainment workers, by August 1 we may see nearly 500,000 union members on the picket line together. The Teamsters Union web site will include factual updates Front Page – International Brotherhood of Teamsters as will the web site of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, (TDU), the leading member-driven militant caucus Teamsters for a Democratic Union (tdu.org) Labor Notes is also a reliable source. Labor Notes | The rail strike situation proved that the bulk of the news media are either incapable of telling the factual real story of a labor fight, or are systematically interested in twisting it for right-wing purposes. Many left outlets will do their best to follow the developments, but again, be careful and skeptical of the reports manufactured by the corporate media who have unhidden loyalty to UPS.
Picket duty to support the Teamsters and the Hollywood workers, and other demonstrations of support will likely appear all-round. Anyplace where there is a UPS depot, garage, or UPS-run facility there will likely be a picket line on day one, August 1. That date may shift forward should there be an extension. It is critical that the company – and the Teamster members – see public support. The 1997 UPS strike 1997 United Parcel Service strike – Wikipedia lasted 15 days and was viewed as a major success. It also set a bar and goals that eventually led to the exit of Hoffa set the stage for today’s fight.
The U.S. left, especially the labor left, has so far played a positive role in the UPS battle, and that must continue and expand. The outcome at UPS may influence more broad labor developments, particularly at Amazon. Young workers need also take particular interest as the shape of the future U.S. workplace will be influenced by the Teamster fight.
Left for last – where it belongs – is a postscript regarding the sorry and former Biden Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. A smalltime union leader-turned-politician, Walsh rose from position to position always trading on his trade union credentials. Arriving eventually as the hand-picked Secretary of Labor in the new Biden regime, Walsh was endlessly ballyhooed as a remarkable figure, a “first”, an extraordinary union and political leader, on and on. Most major unions and the AFL-CIO praised Walsh at every turn, touting his union credentials, excited just at the thought that Biden would actually pick a union member for one – but only one – of his top spots. Where is Walsh today? The rail strikebreaking job was barely buried when Walsh abruptly resigned his position and took a multimillion-dollar job as the head of the Hockey Players Union. His supporters and worshippers were stunned and dumbfounded. As for real union members and working people, having seen his disgusting strike-breaking role during the rail negotiations, his role as special emissary from Biden to wreck the strike at all costs, Walsh now joins the ranks of exiled and discredited misleaders of labor, hopefully to be forever forgotten.
Chris Townsend is a 44 year trade union staff and organizer. He was the Political Action Director for the United Electrical Workers Union (UE) and was the International Union organizing and field director for the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). He may be reached at email@example.com
This article was produced by Marxism-Leninism Today.
The attempted coup in Nicaragua in 2018: Why support for it collapsed By: John Perry, Daniel KovalikRead Now
Two previous articles (1, 2) described the build up to the attempted coup in Nicaragua and how the media were crucial in convincing the public to support it. This article, covering the period from May 30 onwards, shows how the initial support peaked, then collapsed.
After more than a month of conflict, most Nicaraguans hoped that a “national dialogue” set up by the Catholic church would lead to peace, but in fact it led to renewed violence. During the hiatus before the dialogue began, and with the police now confined to their police stations on Daniel Ortega’s orders, roadblocks were set up on all the country’s arterial roads and throughout many key cities (see the map published by one of the coup leaders). Quickly dubbed los tranques de la muerte (“death roadblocks”), they not only strangled the country’s transport system but became the scene of intimidation, robberies, rape, kidnappings and murder.
Map of roadblocks in Nicaragua in June 2018, published by coup leader Francisca Ramirez.
The limited public support for the coup reached a climax at the so-called “Mothers’ Day march” on May 30, 2018. Two huge demonstrations took place in Managua, one in support of the government and a bigger one supporting the coup. The day began and ended with violence. Sandinistas travelling to the march from Estelí were ambushed at the roadblock to the south of the city: 27 people were shot, three dying from their wounds. In total, 28 people would die in that one day, of whom seven were Sandinistas, eight were opposition protesters and the rest of unknown affiliation or bystanders.
Armed roadblock operators south of Estelí, several with conventional weapons, others with “homemade” mortars.
Most of the deaths in the capital occurred because groups of protesters tried to cross police lines to attack the rival Sandinista march. Roadblocks were set up near the national stadium, from which protesters confronted the police. Some were filmed carrying firearms and even apparently shooting at fellow protesters, as seen in this documentary by Juventud Presidente (a pro-Sandinista media group). Other, peaceful protesters leaving the large march were caught in crossfire: allegedly this came from police sharpshooters, but may well have been a “false flag” operation to create chaos, because 20 police officers received firearms injuries. Later, some of the incidents were “forensically” examined by a “group of experts” commissioned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). A special website was created to show the evidence gathered, which focused solely on deaths among the opposition, as did a wider report on casualties by the same “expert” group. In response, an open letter was sent to the IACHR’s parent body by dozens of activists and solidarity organizations, pointing to the startling inaccuracies and omissions in the reports. Possibly as a result of the letter and accompanying article, a video reconstruction of the fatal incidents posted on the special website, was later taken down.
For the U.S. government, corporate media and international human rights bodies, the “Mothers’ Day march” became emblematic of the protests. The opposition still laud the march as a triumph but afterwards it could be seen as marking the peak of their support. This was because in the weeks after May 30 the violence intensified: even the biased reports from local “human rights” groups show that for the whole of June, the majority of victims were ordinary people or Sandinista supporters. A family house in Managua’s Carlos Marx neighborhood was destroyed by fire: six people were burnt alive, including a baby and a two year-old girl. Arson attacks were launched against the pro-Sandinista Radio Ya, the old colonial town hall in the tourist city of Granada and the main secondary school in the city Masaya, serving over 3,000 pupils. Many other public buildings and homes of government supporters were destroyed. The opposition tried to blame all these incidents on Sandinista mobs, with opposition media such as 100%Noticias often having reporters present immediately an attack took place, so as to grab the headlines.
But for several violent incidents, it was more difficult to twist the story. On June 13, student leader Leonel Morales, who had urged fellow students not to support the protests, was kidnapped, shot and left for dead. On June 12, the municipal depot in Masaya was destroyed, together with all the vehicles used to maintain the city streets; those guarding the plant were kidnapped, culminating in the disabling torture of Reynaldo Urbina (who is known to both of us). Both the Catholic church and one of the Nicaraguan “human rights” bodies collaborated with the kidnappers.
On June 19, while the police station in Jinotepe was under siege, protesters brought two stolen fuel tankers close to the building and tried to explode them. On June 21, a young, gay Sandinista, Sander Bonilla, was kidnapped and tortured in Leon by the opposition in the presence of a Catholic priest.
On July 12, a supposedly peaceful procession of vehicles driven by opposition supporters entered the small town of Morrito and launched a fusillade of gunfire at the police station, killing five people. Local media portrayed the incident as a “confusing exchange of fire” in which a protester had been killed. A widely used photo showing the victim was false, however: it had been taken in Honduras in 2009.
Protester “killed” in the attack in Morrito on July 12: the photo is actually from Honduras, taken several years earlier.
Perhaps the saddest incident occurred in Masaya on July 14-15. Young, unarmed, off-duty police officer Gabriel de Jesús Vado Ruíz was kidnapped, tortured and, on the second day, killed. A Catholic priest, Harvin Padilla, was recorded telling the culprits that videos should not be posted because of the bad image they would create. Another priest, Edwin Roman, together with human rights worker Alvaro Leiva of local “human rights” body ANPDH, then attempted to remove the corpse and hide the crime.
Gabriel Vado’s body burns next to a roadblock in Masaya, July 15 2018.
Of course, the accepted history of the coup attempt, as told by the U.S. government, international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council and most of the media, is that nearly all the victims were protesters, mainly students, killed by police or by Sandinista “paramilitaries”. The truth is far more complicated; people on the ground, especially those living in the places most affected, became increasingly aware of the opposition’s intentions. As Idania Castillo, a Sandinista quoted in Dan Kovalik’s book, Nicaragua: A History of U.S. intervention and resistance, points out: “the goal of the insurrectionists… was not just to depose the government, but to destroy all vestiges and historical memory of Sandinismo itself.” In a recent conversation, a friend who lived through the worst of the violence in Masaya, and survived an attempt to kill him when armed protesters burst into his home, described how, at nighttime, Sandinistas identified at roadblocks were stripped and painted blue and white (the colors of Nicaragua’s flag) before being forced to flee naked; neighbors would meet them with towels and water to help them.
By late June and early July 2018, patience with the insurrection had evaporated and most Nicaraguans simply wanted a return to the peace and stability that existed beforehand. Even those who were not government supporters, including many who initially joined the protests, could see where they were leading. They had experienced the benefits of a Sandinista government and (if they were old enough) the previous attempt to overthrow it violently, in the 1980s. Social progress was under threat and conflict was intensifying. It was time for three months of mayhem to come to an end.
The final article will explain how the coup attempt was halted, discuss its aftermath and consider what it means for the future of Nicaragua’s revolution.
John Perry is a COHA Senior Research Fellow and writer living in Masaya, Nicaragua.
This article was produced by Monthly Review.